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Bob Carroll
Bob Carroll
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Abolishing Joint & Several Liability Benefits Wrongdoers

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An opinion piece in the Tallahassee Democrat, quoted below, paints trial lawyers who represent the injured as 1) a blight on society and 2) objecting to a totally “fair” legislative effort to abolish the doctrine of joint and several liability in the State of Florida. It is probably beyond my ability within a single article to address the good or bad results of trial lawyers who have sought compensation on behalf of the victims of careless, reckless or intentional conduct, but I can try to explain the fallacy of the argument in favor of the abolishment of joint and several liability.

In order for a jury to determine that Wrongdoer A is legally liable for even a relatively small percentage of the combined misconduct of multiple wrongdoers it must conclude that but for the misconduct of Wrongdoer A the injury would not have occurred. This means that if Wrongdoer A had been reasonable in his conduct the victim would not have been injured at all. It is also true that the same holds true for Wrongdoer B, Wrongdoer C, etc.

Joint and several liability, which has already been modified over the years to make it fairer, basically says that Wrongdoer A may be required to pay all or most of the damages sustained by the victim even though there may be other wrongdoers whose misconduct contributed to the injury to some degree.

If joint and several liability were to be totally abolished in Florida, you can easily imagine the creativity of Wrongdoer A in nominating other potential wrongdoers. Nobody would care about these nominations except for the fact that the victim, stripped of the doctrine of joint and several liability would be compelled to sue every one of them in order to get even close to fair compensation. In other words, instead of a lawsuit against Wrongdoer A, the victim would face a lawsuit against multiple nominated wrongdoers. The path to compensation for a victim would become a maze of highways and alleys with each one requiring a costly journey.

It should be obvious by this point why the common law developed joint and several liability many years ago in order to permit an injured victim a relatively direct and economical path to a recovery. Abolishing it would be a step backwards, a step that would only benefit the wrongdoers of the world.

An opinion piece in the Tallahassee Democrat, quoted below, paints trial lawyers who represent the injured as 1) a blight on society and 2) objecting to a totally “fair” legislative effort to abolish the doctrine of joint and several liability in the State of Florida. It is probably beyond my ability within a single article to address the good or bad results of trial lawyers who have sought compensation on behalf of the victims of careless, reckless or intentional conduct, but I can try to explain the fallacy of the argument in favor of the abolishment of joint and several liability.

In order for a jury to determine that Wrongdoer A is legally liable for even a relatively small percentage of the combined misconduct of multiple wrongdoers it must conclude that but for the misconduct of Wrongdoer A the injury would not have occurred. This means that if Wrongdoer A had been reasonable in his conduct the victim would not have been injured at all. It is also true that the same holds true for Wrongdoer B, Wrongdoer C, etc.

Joint and several liability, which has already been modified over the years to make it fairer, basically says that Wrongdoer A may be required to pay all or most of the damages sustained by the victim even though there may be other wrongdoers whose misconduct contributed to the injury to some degree.

If joint and several liability were to be totally abolished in Florida, you can easily imagine the creativity of Wrongdoer A in nominating other potential wrongdoers. Nobody would care about these nominations except for the fact that the victim, stripped of the doctrine of joint and several liability, would be compelled to sue every one of them in order to get even close to fair compensation. In other words, instead of a lawsuit against Wrongdoer A, the victim would face a lawsuit against multiple nominated wrongdoers. The path to compensation for a victim would become a maze of highways and alleys with each one requiring a costly journey.

It should be obvious by this point why the common law developed joint and several liability many years ago in order to permit an injured victim a relatively direct and economical path to a recovery. Abolishing it would be a step backwards, a step that would only benefit the wrongdoers of the world.

Lawsuit industry is taxing all Floridians

By William Large
MY VIEW

Thanks to Florida’s trial attorneys, there’s no running allowed on playgrounds.

Swings, merry-go-rounds, teeter-totters and sandboxes are also rapidly becoming extinct. You can blame the trial attorneys for that, too.

In one recent legislative hearing, reported in the Tallahassee Democrat, representatives were considering legislation that would ensure economic damage awards are allocated based on actual fault for an accident. In other words, if you are 15-percent responsible for an accident, you should pay 15 percent of the economic damages.

Sounds fair, right?

Nothing in joint and several liability reform makes it harder for a victim of wrongdoing to sue. Nothing makes it harder to collect a fair share of economic damages from deep-pocketed defendants.

Trial lawyers, however, will keep working to render the repeal of joint and several liability meaningless. Their latest suggestion is to allocate fault only to those they choose to name in lawsuits, and not any other parties who may be responsible. That way, attorneys can cherry-pick the deep pockets.

Allocating economic damage awards based on a proportion of fault, among all the parties responsible for an accident, is fair. It ensures defendants are held responsible for their wrongdoing. It works so well that this is currently how Florida allocates jury awards for noneconomic damages.