Sunday, February 3, 2013

Piner v. Superior Ct. case brief

Piner v. Superior Court case summary
962 P.2d 909 (Ariz. 1998)
Tort Law

PROCEDURAL HISTORY: Plaintiff injured man appealed a decision from the Superior Court of Maricopa County (Arizona), which denied his motion for partial summary judgment on the issue of joint and several liability between defendant drivers and held that the injured man would have to prove apportionment of damages resulting from two separate collisions before he could recover.

-While driving, the injured man was struck in two separate incidents by the drivers on the same day. -There was no medically feasible way to prove how much of his injuries resulted from which collision.
-The injured man moved for partial summary judgment on the issue of joint and several liability against the drivers.
-The trial court denied the motion, holding that the Uniform Contribution Among Tortfeasors Act (UCATA), Ariz. Rev. Stat. §§ 12-2501 to 12-2509, abolished joint and several liability and that the injured man did not meet either of the two exceptions.
-The injured man appealed.

The court reversed, holding that UCATA did not require limiting the drivers' liability by apportioning damages. Rather, UCATA apportioned fault.

The court held that if the injured man established that the conduct of the drivers contributed to his injures, the burden of apportionment was on the drivers. If the trial court concluded that there was no evidence supporting apportionment, the case was one of indivisible injures, and the jury would determine apportionment of fault and the judge would calculate the damages for which each driver was responsible.

If a plaintiff proves that the conduct of multiple defendants contributed to damages, the burden of proof on apportionment is on them. If the judge concludes there is no evidence that would permit apportionment, then the case should be treated as one involving indivisible injuries. If the judge further concludes there is no evidence on which to base a jury finding of inability to apportion, then the jurors must be instructed to apportion. If the evidence on the question of apportionment is conflicting, the jurors should be instructed that if they are able to apportion damages, they should do so, allocating fault and damages for each accident separately. They should also be instructed that if they are unable to apportion damages, then they are to determine the plaintiff's total damages resulting from all injurious incidents. In such case, the indivisible injury rule will apply.

HOLDING: The court reversed the trial court's order that denied partial summary judgment to the injured man and ordered the trial court to proceed to fact-finding on the percentage of fault of each driver.

Topics:  fault, tortfeasor, apportionment, apportion, indivisible, severally liable, indivisible injuries, successive, causation, jointly, percentage of fault, recoverable, non-party, apportioning, factfinder, injury case, several liability, contributed, culpable, jurors, total damage, summary judgment, burden of proving, amount of damages, trier of fact, present case, allocated, doctor, total amount, burden of proof

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