Senate Bill No. 291
(By Senator Carmichael)
[Introduced January 8, 2014; referred to the Committee on the Judiciary.]
A BILL to amend and reenact §55-7-24 of the Code of West Virginia, 1931, as amended, relating to increasing the threshold of a defendant’s liability in a tort action involving more than one defendant, from thirty percent at fault or less to sixty percent at fault or less, to qualify for several liability and not joint and several liability.
Be it enacted by the Legislature of West Virginia:
That §55-7-24 of the Code of West Virginia, 1931, as amended, be amended and reenacted to read as follows:
ARTICLE 7. ACTIONS FOR INJURIES.
§55-7-24. Apportionment of damages.
(a) In any a cause of action involving the tortious conduct of more than one defendant, the trial court shall:
(1) Instruct the jury to determine or, if there is no jury, find, the total amount of damages sustained by the claimant and the proportionate fault of each of the parties in the litigation at the time the verdict is rendered; and
(2) Enter judgment against each defendant found to be liable on the basis of the rules of joint and several liability except that if any a defendant is thirty sixty percent or less at fault, then that defendant’s liability shall be is several and not joint and he or she shall be is liable only for the damages attributable to him or her except as otherwise provided in this section.
(b) Notwithstanding subdivision (2), subsection (a) of this section, the rules of joint and several liability shall apply to:
(1) Any A party who that acted with the intention of inflicting injury or damage;
(2) Any A party who that acted in concert with another person as part of a common plan or design resulting in harm;
(3) Any A party who that negligently or willfully caused the unlawful emission, disposal or spillage of a toxic or hazardous substance; or
(4) Any A party strictly liable for the manufacture and sale of a defective product.
(c) Notwithstanding subdivision (2), subsection (a) of this section, if a claimant through good faith efforts effort is unable to collect from a liable defendant, the claimant may, not later than six months after judgment becomes final through lapse of time for appeal or through exhaustion of appeal, whichever occurs later, move for reallocation of any uncollectible amount among the other parties in the litigation at the time the verdict is rendered.
(1) Upon the filing of such a motion, the court shall determine whether all or part of a defendant’s proportionate share of the verdict is uncollectible from that defendant and shall reallocate such uncollectible amount among the other parties in the litigation at the time the verdict is rendered, including a claimant at fault according to their percentages of fault: Provided, That the court shall may not reallocate to any defendant an uncollectible amount greater than that defendant’s percentage of fault multiplied by such uncollectible amount.
(2) If such a motion is filed, the parties may conduct discovery on the issue of collectability prior to a hearing on such the motion.
(3) Any order regarding such the motion shall be entered within one hundred twenty days after the date of filing such a the motion.
(4) A defendant’s share of the obligation to a claimant may not be increased by reason of reallocation under this subsection if:
(A) The percentage of fault of that defendant is equal to or less than the claimant’s percentage of fault; or
(B) The percentage of fault of that defendant is less than ten percent.
(5) A party whose liability is reallocated is nonetheless subject to contribution and to any continuing liability to the claimant on the judgment.
(6) If any defendant’s share of the obligation to a claimant is not increased by reason of the application of subdivision (4) of this subsection, the amount of that defendant’s share of the reallocation shall be is considered uncollectible and shall be reallocated among all other parties who are not subject to subdivision (4) of this subsection, including the claimant, in the same manner as otherwise provided this subsection.
(d) Nothing in this section may be construed to affect, impair or abrogate affects any right of indemnity or contribution arising out of any a contract or agreement or any right of indemnity otherwise provided by law.
(e) Nothing in this section creates or recognizes, either explicitly or impliedly, any a new or different cause of action not otherwise recognized by law.
(f) Nothing in this section may be construed to affect, impair or abrogate affects the provisions of section seven, article twelve-a, chapter twenty-nine of this code or section nine, article seven-b of this chapter.
(g) This section applies only to causes of action that accrue on or after July 1, 2005.
NOTE: The purpose of this bill is to increase the threshold of a defendant’s liability in a tort action involving more than one defendant, from thirty percent at fault or less to sixty percent at fault or less, to qualify for several liability and not joint and several liability.
Strike-throughs indicate language that would be stricken from the present law and underscoring indicates new language that would be added.