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, shared responsibility.
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!