SW Legal studies in Business

Comparative Negligence May Be Argued Even in Presence of Felony Conviction
Description

Nevada high court held that while state law allowed a felony conviction to be the proof needed to establish tort liability for a related injury, the defendant still had the right to pose the defense of comparative negligence.

Topic Torts
Key Words

Crime; Evidence; Comparative Negligence

C A S E   S U M M A R Y
Facts

Wilson was driving drunk; he ran off the road and rolled his car. His passenger, Cromer, suffered permanent major injuries to hands, arms and legs. Wilson's blood alcohol level was 0.31 and he had cocaine in his system. He was convicted of felony DUI and felony reckless driving. Cromer sued Wilson for negligence. Wilson's answer was a defense of comparative negligence. Cromer moved for summary judgment because under Nevada law the felony conviction established Wilson's liability for the related tort. However, since comparative negligence was pleaded, the court held that Cromer was not entitled to judgment as a matter of law and the case went to trial. The jury found Cromer 25 percent at fault and Wilson 75 percent at fault. Damages of $4.5 million were awarded. Cromer appealed, contending that Wilson should not have been allowed to argue for comparative negligence given the fact of his felony conviction.

Decision

Affirmed. The defense of comparative negligence was not eliminated by the statute that provides that if an offender has been convicted of a crime that injured a victim, the criminal conviction was conclusive evidence of all facts necessary to impose civil liability for the injury. The statute was silent about whether the defendant could argue comparative negligence. The statute established liability, not damages, so comparative negligence was relevant to the jury determination.

Citation Cromer v. Wilson, ---P.3d--- (2010 WL 875565, Sup. Ct.. Nev., 2010)

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