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New Supreme Court Ruling on Apportionment in GA - A Single-Named Defendant Cannot Apportion Fault to a Non-Party or Reduce its Percentage of Fault

There was a significant development in Georgia law on Tuesday, August 10, 2021, wherein the Georgia Supreme Court affirmed the Georgia Court of Appeal’s conclusion that "apportionment under OCGA § 51-12-33 (b) does not apply to tort actions brought against a single-defendant.” See Alston and Bird v Hatcher Management, S20G1419, here

The Georgia Supreme Court concluded: “The General Assembly chose to exclude single-defendant cases from apportionment among non-parties.” Hence, a single-named Defendant cannot apportion fault to a non-party or reduce its percentage of fault if the jury determines the non-party was fully or partially at fault. The reduction in damages proportional to  Plaintiff’s percentage of fault [comparative negligence] remains unchanged as mandated by O.C.G.A. § 51-12-33. A Defendant can still argue the old “empty chair” defense at trial, and also aggressively pursue a proximate causation defense that the non-party was the supervening and intervening act that caused the alleged damage to Plaintiff. If there is a judgment, a Defendant can still pursue a right of contribution against the non-party under the right circumstance. O.C.G.A. § 51-12-32.


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