Personal injury cases are not always just one party negligently causing injury to someone. Oftentimes, multiple parties share liability for someone’s injuries. Cases with multiple negligent parties – known as tortfeasors – have a number of complexities when the time comes to assess liability.
If you suffered injuries as a result of the negligence of multiple parties, your attorney may refer to Article 16 of The New York Civil Procedure Laws and Rules, or the “CPLR”. What is Article 16? How does it affect liability? More importantly, how does Article 16 affect the assessment of damages?
In 1966, lawmakers added Article 16 to the CPLR. It applies to personal injury cases where multiple tortfeasors contribute to an accident. Previously, any tortfeasor holding a portion of fault for an accident was responsible for payment the full amount of the damages. Article 16, however, changed the apportionment of damages. Now, tortfeasors found to have caused less than 50% of the damages in a case must pay only their percentage of the damages rather than the full amount.
Article 16 only applies to noneconomic damages in a case, that is damages related to pain and suffering, loss of consortium, and mental anguish. Damages related to medical bills and lost wages are not covered by Article 16. In addition, Article 16 does not apply to property damage cases or wrongful death cases.
Tortfeasors in a personal injury case with multiple negligent parties become “defendants” once the victim files a lawsuit against them. When there are multiple defendants, Article 16 protects the defendants from assuming full liability if other defendants are found to be liable. Each defendant, however, has the burden of proving that he or she is only partially at fault.
In other words, when multiple parties cause an accident that injures someone, each party is responsible for his or her own portion of the noneconomic damages if its individual liability is less than 50% of the total liability of all the defendants combined.
Article 16 does not apply to the economic damages in the case, such as medical bills and lost wages. So, an injured party may recover all of his or her economic damages from any defendant. Then, that defendant can pursue the other defendants to recover their specific portions of the damages.
If you are a plaintiff in a case with multiple defendants, it is important that your attorney be familiar with Article 16. Here at Sullivan, Papain, Block, McGrath & Cannavo, P.C., our attorneys will walk you through Article 16 and explain how it may affect your case.