§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).

After an accident, many injury victims and their families want more information on the accident and their legal rights. Consequently, many of them have found their way to these pages. While we are happy you are here, please understand Day on Torts: Leading Cases in Tennessee Tort Law was written to be a quick, invaluable reference for Tennessee tort lawyers. While the book provides the leading case for more than 300 tort law subjects and thousands of related case citations, it is not a substitute for personalized legal advice from a qualified lawyer.

Rather than researching these legal issues alone, we urge you to contact one of our award-winning lawyers who can sit down with you, review your case, answer your questions and clearly explain your rights and your options in a no-cost, no-obligation consultation. Our experienced attorneys handle all personal injury and wrongful death cases on a contingency basis, so we only get paid if we win. If for any reason you are unable to come to our office, we will gladly come to you.

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The foregoing is an excerpt from Day on Torts: Leading Cases in Tennessee Tort Law, published by John A. Day, Civil Trial Specialist, Fellow in the American College of Trial Lawyers, recipient of Best Lawyers in America recognition, Martindale-Hubbell AV® Preeminent™ rated attorney, and Top 100 Tennessee Mid-South Super Lawyers designee. Read John’s full bio here.

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