How does Connecticut's comparative negligence law work when there are multiple defendants?
The rules governing allocation of responsibility in Connecticut are found in Section 52-572h of the law. "In causes of action based on negligence, contributory negligence shall not bar recovery in an action by any person or his legal representative to recover damages resulting from personal injury, wrongful death or damage to property if the negligence was not greater than the combined negligence of the person or persons against whom recovery is sought [including tortfeasors who have previously settled or been released of the action]. The economic or noneconomic damages allowed shall be diminished in the proportion of the percentage of negligence attributable to the person recovering ..." [emphasis added].
"The proportionate share of damages for which each party is liable is calculated by multiplying the recoverable economic damages and the recoverable noneconomic damages by a fraction in which the numerator is the party's percentage of negligence ... and the denominator is the total of the percentages of negligence ... attributable to all parties whose negligent actions were a proximate cause of the injury, death or damage to property [including settled or released persons]. Any percentage of negligence attributable to the claimant shall not be included in the denominator of the fraction."
Also, note that the claimant's amount of "economic damages" and "noneconomic damages" is reduced by the amount of the claimant's comparative negligence.
Example: Where $100,000 in damages are claimed, and there are three parties involved: one is found to be 50 percent responsible, another is found to be 25 percent responsible, and the claimant also is found to be 25 percent responsible:
Defendant A = 50/75 = 2/3
Defendant B = 25/75 = 1/3
The claimant is not barred from recovery, since his negligence (25 percent) is not greater than the combined negligence of the persons against whom recovery is sought (75 percent). The claimant is awarded partial recovery of his damages, as reduced to reflect his negligence ($100,000-$25,000 = $75,000). The award is allocated as follows:
Defendant A = $50,000 = (2/3)
Defendant B = $25,000 = (1/3)
Let's now make the party who is 50 percent responsible the claimant. He is not barred from recovery, since his negligence (50 percent) is not greater than the combined negligence of the two parties against whom recovery is sought (50 percent). He can recover damages reduced to reflect his negligence ($100,000 - $50,000 = $50,000) as follows:
Defendant B - 25/50 - 1/2 = $25,000
Defendant C (claimant in the first example) - 25/50 - 1/2 = $25,000
So, even being 50 percent responsible for the accident, this claimant can make a recovery of half his damages, with each defendant paying half of the award or one-fourth of the total damages. However, if this claimant were found 51 percent negligent, he would be barred from making any recovery. The jury is instructed about the effect on awards and liabilities of the percentage of liability it attributes to each party.