Sunday, February 3, 2013

Slack v. Farmers Insurance Exchange case brief

Slack v. Farmers Insurance Exchange case summary
5 P.3d 280 (Colo. 2000)
Tort Law

PROCEDURAL HISTORY: Petitioner appealed from a decision of the Court of Appeals (Colorado), which affirmed the trial court's decision to apportion respondent's liability based on the jury's decision of relative fault and reduce petitioner's award pursuant to Colo. Rev. Stat. § 13-21-111.5.

-Petitioner suffered injuries in an automobile accident.
-When her chiropractor submitted charges for treatment, respondent had an independent medical examiner (IME) provide a second opinion.
-When the IME examined petitioner, he touched her inappropriately and pulled hard on her neck, putting her in additional pain.
-Upon petitioner's complaint, the IME's license was suspended. Petitioner sued him claiming assault, battery, negligence, intentional infliction of emotional distress, and malpractice.
-She also sued respondent, claiming respondent sent her to a chiropractor it knew or should have known would injure her.
-A verdict was returned for petitioner, however fault was apportioned between respondent and the IME.
-The trial court apportioned liability based on the jury's decision and reduced petitioner's award. She appealed and the court of appeals affirmed.
-Petitioner again appealed.

Affirming the lower courts, the court held that the statute's plain meaning required apportionment of liability among negligent and intentional tortfeasors who contributed to an indivisible injury, thus reduction of petitioner's award was proper.

Joint and several liability is eliminated wherein one tortfeasor might be liable in damages for the acts of another tortfeasor, and a several liability scheme is adopted, wherein a tortfeasor is responsible only for the portion of the damages that he or she caused

CONCLUSION: Judgment affirmed. Because statute does not differentiate between intentional acts and negligent acts in its mandate to apportion liability among tortfeasors, the trial court properly apportioned liability based upon the jury's decision as to relative fault between respondent and the independent medical examiner for petitioner's injuries.

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