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Governor Tomblin Signs Comparative Fault Bill Abolishing West Virginia’s Joint and Several Liability

On Thursday, March 5, 2015 Governor Tomblin signed HB 2002 into law, changing West Virginia’s joint and several liability standard – to one of comparative fault. Until now, defendants in West Virginia faced joint and several liability which meant that they could be responsible for more damages than those which actually reflect their percentage of fault. HB 2002 abolished joint and several liability in West Virginia and set forth the new comparative fault standard to be used in computing actions for damages. Section 55-7-13 and 55-7-24 (regarding the old joint and several liability standard) of the West Virginia Code were repealed by HB 2002 and four new sections were added. Those sections set forth the definition of West Virginia’s new “modified comparative fault standard” and provide that the allocation of damages applicable to each person are to be in direct proportion to that person’s percentage of fault.

 

Further, Section 55-7-13c, which was also added to the West Virginia Code, sets forth that the liability of each defendant for compensatory damages shall be only several and not joint. Joint liability will only be imposed where there is a conscious conspiracy between two or more defendants. The additions to the West Virginia Code also set forth the method of computation of damages in relation to the percentage of fault allocated to each defendant. This step by the West Virginia Legislature is one of the many which are being made in the realm of tort law and civil litigation in the State.

 

A copy of the signed bill, in its entirety, can be found by clicking here:

http://www.legis.state.wv.us/Bill_Text_HTML/2015_SESSIONS/RS/bills/hb2002%20sub%20enr.pdf