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Court Discusses a Defendant’s Right to Name Additional Potentially Liable Parties in a Lawsuit

Earlier this month, an appellate court in Arizona decided an interesting case involving a defendant’s right to name additional defendants in a case that was originally filed against only a single defendant. In the case, Cramer v. Starr, the court determined that the defendant did have a right to name an additional party to the lawsuit whom the defendant believed may be partially liable to the plaintiff for the injuries that formed the basis for the personal injury claim.

Damaged Car

The Facts of the Case

Mungia, the plaintiff, was involved in a rear-end accident. Cramer was the driver of the car that struck the rear of Mungia’s vehicle. After the accident, Mungia began experiencing back pain and consulted with a chiropractor. After a few months of treatment and no improvement of her symptoms, she had an MRI performed, and it was discovered that she had several bulging discs. The doctor whom she had gone to see about her back pain recommended this surgery. However, after the surgery was performed, Mungia’s pain was worse than before. Mungia filed a lawsuit against Cramer, alleging that her injuries stemmed from the car accident caused by Cramer.

At trial, Cramer asked the court to allow her to name the doctor who performed the surgery as an additional defendant, arguing that it was the doctor’s negligence rather than her own that caused the plaintiff’s injuries. The court denied the request, and Cramer appealed.

On appeal, the court determined that Cramer should be allowed to name the doctor as an additional defendant in the lawsuit. The court explained that under state law, a defendant can only be held liable for their own percentage of fault, and no more. For example, if a jury determined that Cramer was 20% at fault and the doctor 80% at fault, the most Cramer could be required to pay out would be 20% of the total amount of damages. This is similar to how the law operates in Florida, where a defendant cannot be forced to “make up” for another party’s absence or inability to pay.

The court did explain that it was not immunizing Cramer from the damages caused by the surgery. Specifically, the court held that if a jury determined that a negligently performed surgery was a foreseeable consequence of the car accident, Cramer could still be held fully liable. However, this would have to be decided by the judge or jury on a case-by-case basis.

Cases Involving Multiple Parties in Florida

As noted above, Florida does not subscribe to joint and several liability, under which one defendant can be required to compensate a plaintiff for the entire damages amount. Instead, each defendant will only be held liable up to their own percentage of fault. Thus, it is very important that accident victims work with an attorney early in the process to name all necessary defendants in order to increase their chance of a full recovery.

Have You Been Injured in a Florida Accident?

If you or a loved one has recently been injured in any kind of Florida car accident, you may be entitled to monetary compensation based on the other party’s negligence. If more than one party was involved, each party may be held liable up to their own percentage of fault. Keep in mind that these cases can be complicated and are best handled by an experienced attorney well versed in Florida injury law. Call 954-431-8100 to set up a free consultation with an attorney at Cohn & Smith today. We are well regarded for our professionalism and experience across South Florida. Call today to set up your free consultation.

Related Blog Posts:

How the “Continuing Course of Treatment” Doctrine May Help Medical Malpractice Plaintiffs, South Florida Injury Attorney Blog, July 13, 2016.

Slip-and-Fall Case Arising From City Sidewalk Allowed to Proceed Despite City’s Claim of Immunity, South Florida Injury Attorney Blog, August 4, 2016.

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