MINNESOTA’S COMPARATIVE FAULT LAW EXPLAINED.
FAULT IS THE BASIS OF ANY PERSONAL INJURY CLAIM IN MINNESOTA.
In Minnesota, in order for any person who has been injured to collect in any personal injury case, it is necessary to prove that the party that caused to injury was at fault. Under Minnesota law, fault can be proven by proof of negligence or strict liability.
FAULT CAN BE NEGLIGENCE OR STRICT LIABILITY.
Negligence is defined as “doing what a reasonable person would not do” or “failing to do what a reasonable person would do”. The first is called commission (committing an act that shouldn’t be done, such as speeding in a car). The second is call omission (omitting to do what a person should do, such as failing to stop at a stop sign).
Strict liability is defined as fault which is imposed on a person regardless of negligence. An example is the Minnesota Dog Bite law where the owner of the dog is at fault for any attack by the dog, even if the owner had no reason to believe that the dog was dangerous and no other reason to think that the dog might do some damage.
AN INJURED PERSON CAN COLLECT EVEN IF PARTIALLY AT FAULT.
In many cases, there is a claim that the party that is seeking was also at fault. Under Minnesota law, the injured person can still collect if that person is equal to or less at fault than the party against whom the claim is being made.
THE INJURED PERSON’S FAULT IS CALLED CONTRIBUTORY NEGLIGENCE.
The fault of the party seeking damages (the Plaintiff) is called “contributory negligence”.
COMPARATIVE NEGLIGENCE IS WHEN THE JURY APPORTIONS (SPLITS) THE FAULT BETWEEN THE PARTIES.
When jury determines that the Defendant was negligent and also determines that the Plaintiff was also negligent, the jury is then asked to determine the “comparative fault” of both parties. This decision is called the “comparative fault” decision because the jury is comparing the fault of the respective parties. The jury is asked to determine the percentage of fault between the two (or more) parties.
LIABILITY WILL BE DETERMINED BETWEEN THE PARTIES ON THE BASIS OF THE COMPARATIVE NEGLIGENCE DECISION OF THE JURY.
Under Minnesota law, if the Plaintiff’s fault if greater than that of the Defendant, the Plaintiff is not allowed to collect damages. If the Defendants’ fault is equal greater or equal to that of the Plaintiff, the Plaintiff is allowed to collect, but the amount that the Plaintiff can (For example, if the Defendant is found to be 70% at fault and the Plaintiff 30% at fault and the damages are determined by the jury to be $50,000.00, the Plaintiff will then collect $35,000.00.)
In some cases, there will be more than one Defendant. In that event, the fault of all three parties is compared and the Plaintiff can only recover against any Defendant whose comparative fault is equally or greater. (Note: the result can be complicated in the case of multiple parties. The advice of an experienced personal injury lawyer should be consulted to explain the outcome in those cases.