Lamson, Dugan and Murray, LLP, Attorneys at Law

Economic Damages and Joint and Several Liability, Part III

Posted in In-House Counsel, Legislation

As alluded to in Part I and Part II of this series, the Nebraska Supreme Court addressed the effect of Nebraska’s Comparative Fault Act on joint and several liability when a settlement occurs with one liable party in Tadros v. City of Omaha, 273 Neb. 935, 735 N.W.2d 377 (2007). 

Tadros arose when Georgette Tadros was seriously injured when she was struck by a vehicle while crossing the street.  Tadros had begun crossing the street with favorable walk signal, but it changed to a red signal as Tadros stepped from a median in the middle of the street.  She was struck by Bowley’s vehicle.  It was also determined the City failed to provide sufficient time for pedestrians to cross the street.  Tadros brought suit against the City of Omaha and Bowley.  Before the case went to trial, Tadros settled with Bowley for $35,000. 

At trial, the Court found Tadros to be 20% negligent, Bowley to 30% negligent and the City to be 50% negligent.  The Court further determined Tadros suffered economic damages in the amount of $1,258,999.81 and non-economic damages in the amount of $300,000.  Relying on Neb.Rev.Stat. § 25-21,185.10, the Court determined  the economic damages not attributable to Tadros’ contributory negligence totaled $1,007,199.81.  The Court determined the City was jointly and severally liable for Tadros’ economic damages, and severally liable for the Tadros’ non-economic damages.  The Court then added the $1,007,199.81 and $150,000 amounts and deducted the $35,000 settlement amount which Bowley paid to Tadros, for a total judgment against the City in the amount of $1,122,199.81.  The judgment was further reduced to $1,000,000 pursuant to the limiations on recovery against political subdivisions pursuant to Neb.Rev.Stat. § 13-926.  The City appealed. 

On appeal, the Nebraska Supreme Court reversed the judgment and remanded the case to the trial court with instructions to enter a judgment against the City for $629,499.91 in economic damages, and a total award of economic and noneconomic damages of $779,499.91.  The Court reasoned that Neb.Rev.Stat. § 25-21,185.10 was no longer applicable as Bowley was no longer a defendant, and by its plain language 25-21,185.10 applies to “actions involving more than one defendant.”  The Court determined it should apply Neb.Rev.Stat. § 25-21,185.11. 

Next week, we will examine the process the Court followed in reaching its conclusion.

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