Carey Sartain

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Adrienne Johns had experience riding motorcycles for over 20 years when in 2013, total failure of the front brake on his 2006 Suzuki GSX-R1000 caused him to hit a curb, throwing him from his bike and knocking him unconscious. The accident resulted in Johns being hospitalized for over two months following spinal fusion surgery and surgery to repair his hand. Subsequent to the accident, he discovered that there had been a recall notice from Suzuki related to his bike model’s front brake. At trial, Johns proved that a design defect in the front brake had ultimately caused the brake to fail, resulting in Johns’ accident. The jury awarded Johns $10.5 million in compensatory damages. Under common law principles of strict liability, Johns would receive the verdict in whole. However, the Georgia Supreme Court upheld the jury’s apportionment of 49% of the fault to Johns himself for his failure to properly maintain the brake fluid. This may seem at odds with common law principles of strict liability because it is. ...

The topic examined in this Comment is where Georgia law now stands in regard to applying apportionment in strict liability cases compared to other jurisdictions and what this new direction may mean for practitioners and plaintiffs in the state. This Comment will consider the development of tort law in the areas of contributory negligence and strict liability from common law to present. Specifically, Part II will provide an historical overview of apportionment in tort law, looking at the history of contributory negligence, joint and several liability, and contribution. Part III will track the development and implementation of the body of law known as strict liability and the historical applicability of apportionment to strict liability claims. Part IV will then compare and contrast how various states have approached the applicability of apportionment in strict liability cases following various versions of tort reform. Part V will compare this change in approach to how some states have progressed to allowing apportionment to intentional tortfeasors. Finally, Part VI will address how the recent Georgia Supreme Court decision will affect plaintiffs and practitioners in their approach to cases involving strict liability claims in Georgia and argue why the common law principles should have been maintained.

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Torts Commons