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Sitzes v. Anchor Motor Freight, Inc.

West Virginia Supreme Court
289 S.E.2d 679 (1982)


Facts

Patricia Ann Roberson was killed when the pickup truck driven by her husband, James (defendant), collided with a truck driven by Oswald Carter, an employee of Anchor Motor Freight, Inc. (Anchor Motor) (defendant). Arnold Sitzes and Edward Rucks (plaintiffs), administrators of Patricia’s estate, filed suit against defendants in federal district court. Thereafter, defendants filed a third-party complaint for contribution against James Roberson. After a trial, the district court instructed the jury to assign percentages of fault to James Roberson and Anchor Motor if it found that both had been negligent. Patricia was found not to be at fault and was thus excluded from the apportioning. The jury held for plaintiffs and awarded $100,000 in damages. Further, the jury found Anchor Motor 70 percent negligent and James 30 percent negligent. The district court then posed certified questions to the West Virginia Supreme Court, namely to resolve a perceived conflict between the state’s normal rules of contribution, which would apportion damages equally among joint tortfeasors, and the state’s newly-adopted rule of comparative negligence, which required the jury to assign the proportion of the total negligence among the various parties and completely denied recovery to a plaintiff whose negligence equaled or exceeded 50 percent of the combined negligence of the parties.

Rule of Law

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Issue

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Holding and Reasoning (Miller, C.J.)

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  • A “yes” or “no” answer to the question framed in the issue section;
  • A summary of the majority or plurality opinion, using the CREAC method; and
  • The procedural disposition (e.g. reversed and remanded, affirmed, etc.).

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