The long-standing tort doctrine of Joint and Several Liability was completely repealed in Florida this legislative session. Now the law will hold Defendants in a tort case responsible only for the percentage of the damages that each caused the Plaintiff to sustain. In its pure state, the Doctrine of Joint and Several Liability required any Defendant to pay for the damages caused by all Defendants even if the Defendant paying for all the damages was found to be at fault for a small percentage of the damages.
Business interests see the abolition of the doctrine of Joint and Several Liability as a good thing. The argument is that the law will require all responsible parties to pay only their fair share of the damages caused to a Plaintiff based on the percentage of fault determined by the Jury. Many consumer and victim groups oppose the change and believe that it will unfairly place the burden of unpaid damages on the victims instead of Defendants who were found to be at fault by a jury.
From a practical perspective, this amendment will require a Plaintiff to bring in every conceivable party as a Defendant in a personal injury or wrongful death case so that each Defendant will be required to pay the appropriate share of damages in the case based on the allocation of fault decided by the Jury. The amendment ends the common law principle of Joint and Several Liability, which had been watered down over the years by statutory amendments. For better or worse, Florida is now a true comparative fault state.