Comparative Negligence Doctrine As Applicable to Strict Products Liability
Comparative negligence is defined as a rule of law applied in accident cases that determines the responsibility and damages based on each party’s involvement in the accident, as a catastrophic injury lawyer, like from Eglet Adams, can explain.
For example, Driver A is speeding down the roadway and Driver B fails to use their turn signal when making a left turn. Driver A and B get into an accident, each driver did something unsafe that contributed to the cause of the collision. The damages in the civil lawsuit that arises from the collision will be decided based on how much percentage at fault each driver was. If driver A sues driver B and driver A is found 30% at fault for the collision, their damage award will be reduced by 30%.
Comparative negligence is a modified doctrine that many states have adopted in place of the contributory fault doctrine due to how unfair it can be. Contributory fault denies a plaintiff any recovery if they are found any percent liable for the accident that occurred.
Now that you understand the comparative negligence doctrine, let’s look at how comparative negligence is applied in strict products liability cases.
Comparative Negligence and Strict Product Liability in Nevada
In the state of Nevada, comparative negligence or contributory fault can not be used as a defense in a strict product liability claim. According to Nevada Revised Statute 41.141, the state’s comparative negligence doctrine is:
1. In any action to recover damages for… injury to persons or for injury to property in which comparative negligence is asserted as a defense, the comparative negligence of the plaintiff… does not bar a recovery if that negligence was not greater than the negligence or gross negligence of the parties to the action against whom recovery is sought.
2. In those cases, the judge shall instruct the jury that:
(a) The plaintiff may not recover if the plaintiff’s comparative negligence or that of the plaintiff’s decedent is greater than the negligence of the defendant or the combined negligence of multiple defendants.
In regard to strict liability, Nevada Revised Statute 41.141 states:
This section does not affect the joint and several liability, if any, of the defendants in an action based upon:
(a) Strict liability;
(b) An intentional tort;
(c) The emission, disposal or spillage of a toxic or hazardous substance;
(d) The concerted acts of the defendants; or
(e) An injury to any person or property resulting from a product which is manufactured, distributed, sold or used in this state.
Comparative Negligence as a Defense for Strict Product Liability Claims
It is important to note that the above statute only applies in the state of Nevada and the rules for using contributory negligence as a defense for a product liability claim will vary from state to state.
For example, in the state of Pennsylvania, comparative negligence defenses are generally inadmissible for product liability claims but may be used under limited circumstances. One circumstance could be if a product was misused. This includes unforeseeable, outrageous and extraordinary use of a product due that could cause a product to fail.