Understanding State Contribution Laws and Their Effect on the Settlement of Mass Tort Actions
Jean M. Eggen
Widener University - Delaware Campus
January 1, 1995
Texas Law Review, Vol. 73, 1995
A common feature of mass tort litigation involves the situation in which some defendants settle with the plaintiff prior to trial, with the plaintiff proceeding to trial and winning a favorable judgment against the nonsettling defendants. In such situations, most states apply a credit, or set-off, of a certain amount against the plaintiff's recovery to account for the prior settlement. Different set-off rules can yield dramatically different results, in terms of both the plaintiff's recovery and the defendants' liabilities, including the right to seek contribution. The approaches that the states take to these matters are fragmented and inconsistent. This article examines the various state approaches to contribution and settlement in this context. This article further explores some of the issues that have caused conflicting state rules, with particular attention to state variations on the rules of joint and several liability. Included is a state-by-state table of state contribution laws and joint and several liability rules. This article offers suggestions for evaluating the existing state rules with the goals of enhancing awareness of the issue and developing a unified approach to these doctrines in the mass tort context.
Number of Pages in PDF File: 77
Keywords: torts, tort law, mass torts, litigation, settlement, set-off, contribution, joint and several liability
JEL Classification: K13
Date posted: November 13, 2009
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