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. Partin, Mr. 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.