CAN DEFENDANTS APPORTION FAULT TO A NON-PARTY IN GEORGIA PERSONAL INJURY CASES?
Hoffspiegel Law Blog
Georgia has an apportionment statute that allows defendants to apportion fault to non-parties. Georgia’s apportionment statute, codified in O.C.G.A. § 51-12-33, allows holding each party whose fault contributed to the plaintiff’s injury responsible for their respective share of fault.
The statute requires a jury to apportion responsibility for a plaintiff’s injury among the defendant and non-parties whose negligent or intentional acts contributed to the harm. Under the apportionment statute, each at-fault party’s liability is limited to their apportioned percentage of fault.
If a defendant in your case is trying to apportion fault to non-parties or shift the blame onto someone else, do not hesitate to contact a knowledgeable attorney in Georgia.
Schedule a consultation with our Atlanta premises liability attorneys at Hoffspiegel Law to investigate your particular situation and ensure that the defendant or defendants are held responsible for causing your injury.
How does Georgia’s apportionment statute work?
When determining liability for your injury, the jury will consider the fault of all parties and non-parties who caused or contributed to your injury or damages, according to O.C.G.A. § 51-12-33(c), even if the at-fault party could not have been named as a defendant in the lawsuit.
Under Georgia’s apportionment statute, the jury may apportion fault to a non-party when either of the following is true:
- The plaintiff entered into a settlement agreement with the non-party whose fault contributed to the injury; or
- The defendant gave notice at least 120 days (four months) before trial identifying a non-party as entirely or partially at fault for the plaintiff’s injury.
Many defendants try to take advantage of Georgia’s apportionment statute to shift the responsibility onto a non-party in an attempt to reduce their own liability. However, defendants have the burden to prove a rational basis for apportioning fault to a non-party.
Note: A defendant is barred from apportioning fault to non-parties after default is entered on liability against the defendant if they failed to provide a notice of claim for apportionment within the applicable time limit. Freese II, Inc. v. Mitchell, 318 Ga. App. 662, 734 S.E.2d 491 (Ga. Ct. App. 2012).
A defendant could reduce liability by apportioning fault to non-parties
In 2013, the Court of Appeals of Georgia held that fault could be apportioned to non-parties for their negligent and/or intentional acts. Six Flags Over Ga. Ii, L.P. v. Martin, 320 Ga. App. 52, 743 S.E.2d 25 (Ga. Ct. App. 2013).
It means that a defendant could reduce liability by apportioning fault to non-parties when a plaintiff suffers harm due to a third-party criminal act.
For example, if you filed a negligent security lawsuit against a property owner in Georgia, the defendant may apportion fault to the assailant who assaulted you. Since the jury must determine liability based on each party’s percentage of fault, the landowner may be deemed 50% responsible for your injury for not having proper security measures. The remaining 50% of responsibility may be apportioned to the criminal assailant who caused your injury.
Note: Under Georgia’s modified comparative negligence rule, a plaintiff is barred from recovering any damages if they were 50% or more responsible for their injury or damages.
If you have filed a premises liability lawsuit against a property owner whose negligence caused you harm, but the owner is trying to apportion fault to non-parties, contact a skilled attorney right away. Our lawyers at Hoffspiegel Law have vast experience handling premises liability cases involving claims for apportionment of fault. Call (404) 760-8600 to receive a consultation.