Sizing Up a Multi-Party Tortfeasor Suit in Arkansas: A Tale of Two Laws–How Fault Is, And Should Be, Distributed

Winter 2004

by Joseph R. Falasco |

“In an era where lawyers, courts, and politicians have attempted to steer tort liability damage allocation in a more predictable direction, both the Arkansas Supreme Court and the General Assembly have recently turned multi-party tort law into a morass. The supreme court’s precedent drastically changed Arkansas’s traditional approach to contribution among tortfeasors, and the General Assembly’s reaction through the Civil Justice Reform Act equally nullified prior law. [FN1] For claims accruing prior to March 25, 2003, a settlement and release by plaintiffs can cost more than the traditional pro-rata share of the joint tortfeasor’s responsibility; a settlement can completely absolve other possible defendants of liability. [FN2] For claims accruing after March 24, 2003, a plaintiff’s ability to recover through trial has been severely tempered. The Arkansas Supreme Court has veered from its traditional approach of fault attribution in joint tortfeasor suits. The court erred in its interpretation of the law, and a more appropriate reading will be introduced along with an analysis of how attorneys can approach the multi-party tortfeasor suits in Arkansas for acts accruing prior to March 25, 2003. Moreover, the General Assembly created a unique framework for multi-party tortfeasor suits, and an analysis of the new law will follow.”

Note: The above is an excerpt from the in the University of Arkansas at Little Rock Law Review. Click the link below to read the actual publication.