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  • Writer's picturePeter Lamont, Esq.

Allocation of Damages to Parties that Settle in a Negligence Case

Understanding Young v. Latta: A Landmark in New Jersey's Negligence Law


In negligence lawsuits, allocating damages among multiple defendants is complex and often contentious. The landmark New Jersey Supreme Court case of Young v. Latta, 123 N.J. 584 (1991), explains what happens when one defendant settles out of a lawsuit.


negligence

Background

Before delving into the specifics of Young v. Latta, it is essential to understand the context. In negligence lawsuits involving multiple defendants, it’s often challenging to determine each party's degree of liability. This complexity is magnified when some defendants settle before the case reaches trial, leaving open the question of how their potential liability affects the remaining defendants.


The Case of Young v. Latta

In Young v. Latta, the New Jersey Supreme Court confronted this issue head-on. The case revolved around a medical malpractice lawsuit where multiple parties were alleged to have contributed to the plaintiff's harm. One of the critical questions was how to handle the liability of defendants who had settled before trial.


The Court’s Ruling

The ruling in Young v. Latta established a precedent that a non-settling defendant has the right to argue the liability of a settling defendant. Additionally, the court ruled that the non-settling defendant could demand a credit against any judgment and have the jury apportion the settling defendant’s liability. This decision was significant for several reasons:


  1. Expert Testimony: The court held that the testimony of a plaintiff's expert could be used to establish the "fault" of a settling defendant for apportionment purposes.

  2. Criteria for Apportionment: The court provided criteria for when a non-settling defendant could seek to have a settling defendant's liability apportioned by a jury. This included whether the settling defendant provided an expert witness asserting fault against them and whether the non-settling defendant had claimed the causative fault of the co-defendant(s) well before the trial.


Implications of the Ruling

The ruling in Young v. Latta had profound implications for negligence lawsuits in New Jersey:


  • It offered a clear guideline on how to deal with settling defendants' liability.

  • It highlighted the importance of expert testimony in establishing fault.

  • It paved the way for a more equitable distribution of liability among defendants.


Conclusion

Young v. Latta remains a cornerstone case in New Jersey’s legal system, particularly in negligence lawsuits. Its significance lies in its approach to handling the complex interplay of multiple defendants and their varying degrees of liability. As legal professionals, understanding the nuances of this case is crucial for effectively navigating the legal landscape of negligence lawsuits in New Jersey.



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Peter J. Lamont is a Top-Rated New Jersey Business Attorney

About Peter J. Lamont, Esq.

Peter J. Lamont is a nationally recognized attorney with significant experience in business, contract, litigation, and real estate law. With over two decades of legal practice, he has represented a wide array of businesses, including large international corporations. Peter is known for his practical legal and business advice, prioritizing efficient and cost-effective solutions for his clients.


Peter has an Avvo 10.0 Rating and has been acknowledged as one of America's Most Honored Lawyers since 2011. 201 Magainze and Lawyers of Distinction have also recognized him for being one of the top business and litigation attorneys in New Jersey. His commitment to his clients and the legal community is further evidenced by his active role as a speaker, lecturer, and published author in various legal and business publications.


As the founder of the Law Offices of Peter J. Lamont, Peter brings his Wall Street experience and client-focused approach to New Jersey, offering personalized legal services that align with each client's unique needs and goals​

 

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