Tennessee Court Declines to Review Apportionment of Fault – Bachar v. Partin

Tennessee is a modified comparative fault state. This means that when considering claims of negligence or personal injury, jurors or the court must look at the percentage of fault attributable to each party when determining liability.  For instance, if a patron of a restaurant is slightly drunk and trips stepping off a sidewalk and onto the street, jurors must determine which percentage of her injury is attributable to the fact that she had been drinking (her fault) and which percentage of her injury is attributable to the restaurant’s failure to properly mark a drop-off in the sidewalk or otherwise notify patrons of a dangerous condition (the restaurant’s fault).  If the patron is 25% at fault and the restaurant 75% at fault, the patron may only receive 75% of the damages that she claims.  Under the modified comparative fault system, if the restaurant’s fault is 50% or less, the patron is not entitled to any damages at all.  As illustrated in a recent case before the Tennessee Court of Appeals, when jurors assign percentages of fault to parties, courts are reluctant to second-guess these percentages or reverse a jury’s determination.

In Bachar v. PartinMr. Bachar was involved in an automobile accident with a truck driven by Mr. Partin.  According to Mr. Bachar, Mr. Partin failed to properly stop at a stop sign. In order to avoid colliding with Mr. Partin as he entered the intersection, Mr. Bachar swerved his car and ended up colliding with another vehicle. Mr. Bachar sued for negligence, and Mr. Partin responded by alleging that Mr. Bachar was partly to blame for the accident that occurred. According to Mr. Partin, Mr. Bachar was speeding at the time of the accident.

After a trial, the jury ultimately determined that Mr. Partin was 60% at fault, and Mr. Bachar was 40% at fault. It therefore assigned Mr. Partin 60% of the damages, an amount totaling approximately $200,000. Mr. Partin filed a motion for a new trial, which was denied, and also appealed, arguing that the jury verdict and apportionment of fault were not supported by the weight of the evidence.

On appeal, the court noted that it was obligated to uphold the jury’s determination if there was any evidence available to support the jury’s verdict. The court noted that while there was evidence to suggest that Mr. Bachar might have been driving in excess of the speed limit, there was also plenty of evidence to show that Mr. Partin had entered the intersection without stopping, forcing Mr. Bachar to swerve to avoid his vehicle and causing the accident.  Accordingly, the court determined that it was not unreasonable or unjustified for the jury to have determined that Mr. Partin was 60% at fault for the accident. On that basis, the appellate court declined to overturn the jury’s verdict.

If you have recently been injured in an accident and are concerned that you may be held partially at fault under Tennessee’s modified comparative fault laws, experienced Tennessee auto accident attorney Eric Beasley can help you evaluate whether your fault might amount to 50% or more, or if you are likely to receive compensation for your injuries.  For more information or to discuss the circumstances of your case, contact the Law Office of Eric Beasley today at 615-859-2223.

Related Blog Posts:

The Risks and Rewards of Jury Trials for Personal Injury Claims, Tennessee Personal Injury Blog, August 4, 2016

The Complexities of Bringing Personal Injury Claims Against International Corporations in Tennessee, Tennessee Personal Injury Blog,  March 10, 2016

Managing Parallel Civil and Criminal Proceedings for Personal Injury Claims, Tennessee Personal Injury Blog, February 24, 2016