When you file a personal injury lawsuit in Atlanta, you may be filing a claim against one or more defendants. Determining who may be liable for damages is something you should do with assistance from an Atlanta personal injury attorney since there are various theories of liability in personal injury cases. To be sure, a party could be partially responsible for damages even though that party was not present at the time of the injury.
For example, a property owner could be liable for an assault on their premises in negligent security cases, or a designer or manufacturer of a product can be liable for harm resulting from a defective consumer product. When more than one party may be responsible for damages, Georgia’s apportionment statute may apply. What is the apportionment statute and what do you need to know about it if you are filing a personal injury claim?
What is Georgia’s Apportionment Statute?
Georgia’s apportionment statute may apply (Georgia Code § 51-12-33) is a law that concerns both comparative faults and apportioning fault to multiple defendants. The statute says that, in cases where a plaintiff is partially at fault but is not barred from recovery, the court can reduce the plaintiff’s recovery based on the percentage of the plaintiff’s fault. In addition, the statute says that the fault of different defendants can be apportioned based on their percentages of fault, and the total monetary damages awarded to the plaintiff will then be apportioned accordingly.
For example, Party B and Party C are both found to be responsible for the plaintiff’s injuries, and the court determines that Party B is 75 percent at fault and Party C is 25 percent at fault. If the plaintiff is awarded $100,000 in damages, Party B would pay $75,000 (75 percent of the total damages award) and Party C would pay $25,000 (25 percent of the total damages award).
Recent Revisions to the Apportionment Statute
The apportionment statute has been the subject of much contention following a case that went before the Georgia Supreme Court concerning responsibility for damages award when more than one party may be at fault but the lawsuit names only one defendant. The Georgia legislature recently changed the law to address the issue, but we want to explain the background to ensure that you understand how the law currently works.
In the Georgia Supreme Court case, Alston & Bird v. Hatcher Management Holdings (2021), the Court ruled that a defendant could not reduce the damages they are responsible for paying by apportioning fault to another liable party who is not named in the lawsuit. In other words, if Party B and Party C are both responsible for the plaintiff’s injuries but the plaintiff only names Party B in the lawsuit, Party B would be responsible for paying the full amount of damages. The Georgia legislature amended the language of the statute through HB 961, which was recently signed into law in Georgia.
With the changes to the law, a defendant in a lawsuit can apportion damages even if the other liable party or parties are not named in the lawsuit.
Contact an Atlanta Personal Injury Attorney
If you have questions about how the apportionment statute or its recent changes could impact your case, you should seek advice from one of our Atlanta personal injury attorneys who can help you. Contact Stewart Miller Simmons Trial Attorneys online or call us to get started on your case.