In October 2009, Daniel Prickett and Imelda Zaldivar collided in a car
accident. Prickett sued Zaldivar to recover money damages for injuries
during the accident. Prickett claimed that he was lawfully turning left
in the intersection when Zaldivar collided into him, but Zaldivar claimed
to have the right of way when Prickett turned into her path.
As a result, Zaldivar pointed the blame at Prickett and Overhead Door Company,
the company that employed Prickett and owned the company truck he was
driving during the accident. Zaldivar claimed that this third party was
negligent to have entrusted Prickett with a company truck, and therefore,
Further, Prickett had previously received numerous anonymous complaints
about his driving, which should have deemed him as unfit to drive by his
employers. However, the Court of Appeals rejected Zaldivar’s claim
that this company shared responsibility in the accident.
The Supreme Court Rules in on Apportionment
This was turned over by the Supreme Court, which claimed that the defendant
driver could ask to share responsibility with the third party employer.
Prior to this claim, the Supreme Court had given little guidance about
what qualifications were needed to appoint another party to share some
of the liability of an accident. It was agreed that nonparties who have
breached a legal duty to the plaintiff can be included in apportionment cases.
What This Means for Personal Injury Law
The apportionment statute
permits defendants to claim that nonparties must share responsibility. However, this statute comes with its limitations and closely examines
if the nonparty is to blame for the plaintiff’s negligence. In the
case of Zaldivar v. Prickett, the jury found Overhead Door Company could
be held partly responsible for the collision, since they permitted Prickett
to use their vehicle despite his negligent driving behavior. These new
limitations on apportionment help to clearly define when a nonparty can
be included in a personal injury case.
To learn more about the verdict, check out the case results!