CARSON CITY, Nev. (Legal Newsline) - The Nevada Supreme Court says the state's comparative negligence statute allows liability to be split between a negligent tortfeasor and an intentional tortfeasor.
The Court concluded that NRS 41.141 is ambiguous. Therefore, it construed the statute as permitting such an apportionment.
In the case at issue, respondents Donny Palma and Matt Richards were patrons at the Cafe Moda restaurant when they started fighting, and Richards stabbed Palma repeatedly.
Palma then sued Richards and the restaurant, pursuing an intentional tort theory of liability against Richards and a negligence theory of liability against Cafe Moda.
A Clark County jury returned a verdict in favor of Palma.
Having found that Palma had not been comparatively negligent, the jury apportioned 80 percent of the fault to Richards and the remaining 20 percent to Cafe Moda.
However, based on its reading of NRS 41.141, the district court entered a judgment against Richards and the restaurant that held each of them jointly and severally liable for 100 percent of Palma's damages.
Richards and Cafe Moda appealed to the state's high court.
The Court, in its March 1 opinion, reversed the part of the district court's judgment imposing joint and several liability against the restaurant.
"We must construe NRS 41.141 in a way that gives effect to the statute's design and the Legislature's intent. To do so, we construe subsection 4's use of 'negligence' to mean 'fault,'" Justice Ron D. Parraguirre wrote for the Court.
"Such a construction gives effect to the statute's design, eliminates the unreasonable result inherent in Palma's proffered application, and leaves the remainder of the statute's language intact."
The statute's application in this case then becomes straightforward, Parraguirre said.
"Because the jury found Cafe Moda to be 20 percent at fault, it is to be held severally liable for 20 percent of Palma's damages. And because our construction of the statute leaves subsection 5 unchanged, Richards remains jointly and severally liable for 100 percent of Palma's damages," he wrote.
The Court remanded the case so that the district court can enter a modified judgment reflecting its decision.
From Legal Newsline: Reach Jessica Karmasek by email at email@example.com.