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Beaudoin v. Texaco, Inc.

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Brief Fact Summary.

Beaudoin filed a negligence suit against Texaco, Inc. (Texaco) after being declared legally blind following his work at a site owned by Texaco.

Synopsis of Rule of Law.

In a comparative negligence jurisdiction, a plaintiff is able to recover where the plaintiff’s negligence does not exceed the defendant’s negligence.

Points of Law - Legal Principles in this Case for Law Students.

The majority of the court has become convinced that comparing the negligence of the individual plaintiff to that of each individual tortfeasor--rather than comparing the negligence of the individual plaintiff to that of the combined negligence of the several tortfeasors who have collectively contributed to plaintiff's injuries--leads to harsh and unfair results; the majority has further concluded that this rule of comparative negligence, a court-made doctrine, can be changed by court decision.

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Facts.

Beaudoin, an employee of Wood Wireline (Wireline), was struck in the eye by a wire when fulfilling a contract with Texaco, Inc. (Texaco). Texaco did not have lights at the site and Beaudoin was declared legally blind. Beaudoin filed a negligence suit against Texaco, Inc. (Texaco) after being declared legally blind following his work at a site owned by Texaco. 60 percent of the negligence was attributed to Wireline, 30 percent of the negligence was attributed to Beaudoin, and 10 percent of the negligence was attributed to Wireline.

Issue.

Whether a plaintiff is unable to recover where the plaintiff’s negligence does not exceed the defendant’s negligence in a comparative negligence jurisdiction?

Held.

No. Under the “unit” rule, recovery is proper because the defendant’s total sum of negligence is greater than Beaudoin’s negligence. Accordingly, Texaco is required to pay 70 percent of the damages.

Discussion.

In a comparative negligence jurisdiction, a plaintiff is able to recover where the plaintiff’s negligence does not exceed the defendant’s negligence. The plaintiff’s damages award, however, may be reduced to reflect the amount of negligence contributed by the plaintiff. Under the “unit rule,” the plaintiff may recover from each defendant if the plaintiff’s negligence is less than the total sum of the defendants’ negligence.


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