McIntyre v. Balentine Case Brief

Summary of McIntyre v. Balentine, S. Ct. Tenn, [1992]

Defenses – Plaintiff’s Conduct; Comparative Negligence

Relevant Facts: Pl and Df Balentine were involved in an auto accident. Df was traveling southbound in a Peterbuilt semi, and Pl was exiting a truckstop in his pickup truck. Shortly afterward the pickup was struck by the semi. Both parties had been drinking and df was traveling in excess of the speed limit.

Legal Issue(s): Whether the common law doctrine of contributory negligence applies upon the pl in this case?

Court’s Holding: No

Procedure: Pl filed personal injury. Jury trial returned verdict equally liable, pl appealed. Ct of App affirmed. S. Ct. Reversed in part, affirmed in part.

Law or Rule(s): So long as a pl negligence remains less than the df’s negligence the pl may recover; in such a case, pl’s damages are to be reduced in proportion to the percentage of the toal negligence attributable to the pl.

Court Rationale: The new rule makes the doctrines of remote contributory negl. and last clear chance obsolete. In cases involving multiple tortfeasors, the pl will be entitled to recover so long as pl’s fault is less than the combined fault of all tortfeasors. The new rule more closely links liability and fault. Joint and several liability fortuitously imposes a degree of liability that is out of proportion to fault. Df are now able to assert or claim as an affirmative df comparative negligence involving non-party causation.

Plaintiff’s Argument: Contributory negligence unfairly penalizes the pl using antiquated doctrines.

Defendant’s Argument: Under contributory negligence all of the dfs are unfairly penalized as a whole were liability is attached.

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