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Burke v. Schaffner

    Brief Fact Summary.

    Burke filed an alternative liability suit against Schaffner after being hit by a pickup truck.

    Synopsis of Rule of Law.

    Alternative liability requires a plaintiff to prove that two or more defendants: (1) breached a duty owed to the plaintiff, (2) committed a tortious act, and (3) the plaintiff was injured as the proximate cause of one of the defendant’s actions.

    Facts.

    Malone was sitting in the driver’s seat of a pickup truck that was running, but stationary. Schaffner sat beside Malone in the passenger seat. When more passengers entered the car, Schaffner tried to move over and accidentally pushed the gas, hitting Burke. Burke subsequently filed suit. Malone and Burke settled outside of court, but Schaffner remained a defendant in the suit. The jury granted judgment to Schaffner and Burke appealed.

    Issue.

    Whether alternative liability requires a plaintiff to prove that two or more defendants: (1) breached a duty owed to the plaintiff, (2) committed a tortious act, and (3) the plaintiff was injured as the proximate cause of one of the defendant’s actions?

    Held.

    Yes. The judgment of the trial court is affirmed. The doctrine of alternative liability is not applicable because Malone was not made an additional defendant in the suit. Alternative liability requires all parties that have committed a tortious act against the plaintiff to be named as defendants in the suit.

    Discussion.

    Alternative liability requires a plaintiff to prove that two or more defendants: (1) breached a duty owed to the plaintiff, (2) committed a tortious act, and (3) the plaintiff was injured as the proximate cause of one of the defendant’s actions. Alternative liability does not apply where only one defendant can be held liable for the harm.


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