In many instances, there are multiple parties involved in personal injury actions. For example, motor vehicle accidents commonly involve multiple wrongdoers/defendants (also known as tortfeasors). In 1966, a provision called Article 16 was added to the New York CPLR (Civil Procedure Laws and Rules) in order to adjust the liability of tortfeasors in an action. Article 16 does not govern economic damages, and thus items such as lost income or medical expenses are not applicable. Additionally, Article 16 cannot be invoked for wrongful death suits or property damage cases.
Article 16 modified the doctrine of joint and several liability which holds each joint defendant responsible for the full amount of the judgment regardless of percentage of fault. An affirmative defense for defendants, Article 16 apportions liability of persons jointly liable for non-economic damages in a personal injury action. This means that a joint tortfeasor may be responsible for either part of the judgment or all of it- if it is found that a joint tortfeasor is less than 50% liable, he is only responsible for his share of the non-economic damages (ie. Pain and suffering, loss of consortium, etc.) for which he is culpable. However, if the joint tortfeasor is found to be more than 50% liable, they are still joint and severally liable for the entire amount of non-economic damages, along with the other joint tortfeasors.
However, a defendant may be able to recover from another joint tortfeasor in the action if he paid more than his proportionate share. As such, the provision serves to protect defendants and limit their liability when other tortfeasors are involved. However, it is the burden of that defendant to invoke Article 16 and be able to prove that he is not wholly liable for the damages. Article 16 protects tortfeasor who were negligent only. It does not serve as a protection for reckless or intentional actions that caused the plaintiff injury. Article 16 also cannot be invoked for tortfeasors over whom the court cannot obtain personal jurisdiction, or any other wrongdoers who are not parties in the action.
If you are commencing a personal injury action against multiple defendants, it is important to retain an attorney who is familiar with the intricacies of Article 16 and the complexities that can arise when dealing with multiple defendants. The attorneys at Sakkas, Cahn & Weiss are skilled and knowledgeable trial attorneys who are adept at handling even the most complicated personal injury actions. The firm represents clients throughout New York City, including Manhattan, Queens, the Bronx, Staten Island, Brooklyn, Long Island, New Jersey, and Connecticut. For a consultation, call 212-571-7171.