Comparative negligence is the legal theory that a plaintiff is at least partially to blame for his/ her own injuries. In some states, that fact alone can prohibit a person from collecting any damages whatsoever (pure contributory negligence). In other states, a plaintiff’s own negligence can’t be more than the negligence of other parties (modified comparative fault). In Florida, which follows a pure comparative negligence standard, any amount of comparative negligence won’t bar the claim, but it will proportionately reduce damages (per F.S. 768.81).
Recently, the South Carolina Supreme Court weighed a case that asked whether the doctrine of comparative negligence applied in a crashworthiness product liability lawsuit against a vehicle manufacturer. That state follows a modified comparative fault model.
Although this is an out-of-state case, it’s worth examining because state supreme courts will often consider the rulings of sister courts in weighing similar circumstances. In this case, the court ruled that comparative negligence does not factor in a crashworthiness case. Further, public policy in that state doesn’t prohibit a plaintiff who was allegedly intoxicated at the time of a crash from bringing a claim of crashworthiness against the manufacturer of the vehicle. Continue reading →