§15.26 Several Liability as a General Rule
The Case: McIntyre v. Balentine , 833 S.W.2d 52 (Tenn. 1992).
The Basic Facts: "In the early morning darkness of November 2, 1986, Plaintiff Harry Douglas McIntyre and Defendant Clifford Balentine were involved in a motor vehicle accident resulting in severe injuries to Plaintiff … Both men had consumed alcohol the evening of the accident." 833 S.W.2d at 53.
The Bottom Line:
- "Third, today's holding renders the doctrine of joint and several liability obsolete. Our adoption of comparative fault is due largely to considerations of fairness: the contributory negligence doctrine unjustly allowed the entire loss to be borne by a negligent plaintiff, notwithstanding that the plaintiff's fault was minor in comparison to the defendant's. Having thus adopted a rule more closely linking liability and fault, it would be inconsistent to simultaneously retain a rule, joint and several liability, which may fortuitously impose a degree of liability that is out of all proportion to fault.FN7
FN7 Numerous other comparative fault jurisdictions have eliminated joint and several liability. See, e.g., Alaska Stat. § 09.17.080(d) (Supp. 1991); Colo. Rev. Stat. § 13-21-111.5(1) (1987); Kan. Stat. Ann § 60-258a(d) (Supp. 1991); N.M. Stat. Ann. § 41-3A-a (1989); N.D. Cent. Code § 32-03.2-02 (Supp. 1991); Utah Code Ann. §78-27-38, -40 (1992); Wyo. Stat. Ann. § 1-1-109(d) (1988)."833 S.W.2d at 58.
Other Sources of Note: When a defendant is found to have a duty to prevent another from committing an intentional wrong, Limbaugh v. Coffee Medical Center, 59 S.W.3d 73 (Tenn. 2001), and joint and several liability survives in cases involving conspiracy, Resolution Trust Corp. v. Block, 924 S.W.2d 354 (Tenn. 1996). A finding of strict liability in a products liability case has the effect of joint and several liability insofar as the liability of the person who manufactured the product is concerned, see Owens v. Truckstops of America, 915 S.W.2d 420 (Tenn. 1996).