The Supreme Court of New York held that damages may be divided amongst multiple parties that are at fault regardless of which party is more culpable.
When an injury is caused by more than one party, all culpable parties despite one being more at fault for an injury in comparison to another party, will be apportioned damages.
Corva (Plaintiff) was involved in an accident while being a passenger in a moving vehicle owned by Donald Sabia. Sabia was insured by United Services Automobile Association Services (Defendant) who hired Dahle Lassonade & Company, Inc. (“Dahle”) and attorney Jack Hall in order to reach a settlement agreement. The parties agreed to $15,000 but Corva brought suit against USAA,Dahle, and Hall for misrepresentation regarding Sabia’s coverage limit. USAA, Dahle, and Hall all filed cross complaints alleging Corva’s attorney violated his duty by not looking into Sabia’s policy limits. Trial court dismissed all claims. USAA appeals.
Whether damages can be allocated among all parties with whom are culpable despite one party being more at fault compared to another.
Yes. The Supreme Court held that it has long been understood that allocation of damages can be disbursed amongst multiple culpable parties regardless of one party being more at fault compared to another. Here, the Court determined that Corva could only be successful if she justifiably relied on the misrepresentation. However, since it is possible that Corva justifiably relied on the misrepresentation while also failing to investigate the policy limit, it is possible that Corva is also at fault. Trial court decision reversed.
The court emphasizes the fact that the attorneys on both sides are at fault. First, Sabia’s attorney is at fault for misrepresenting the policy amount that is covered. Second, Plaintiff’s attorney is also at fault for failing to research the covered policy amount. Although misrepresentation is viewed as a greater harm, the other party should not be excused from any liability.