In New Jersey, to prove negligence, a plaintiff must show the following: (1) that the defendant owed a duty of care to the plaintiff; (2) that the defendant breached the duty of care; (3) that the defendant’s breach of duty was the proximate cause of injury to the plaintiff; and (4) that the plaintiff suffered damages as a result.
Modified Comparative Negligence
Per the New Jersey Comparative Negligence ACT 2A:15-5.1, New Jersey follows a modified comparative negligence standard where a plaintiff may only recover damages for personal injury under a negligence theory if it is determined by a court that the plaintiff’s percentage of fault for their own injury did not exceed 50%. If a court finds that a plaintiff was 51% or more at fault for their injury, they will be completely barred from obtaining a monetary recovery. If a court attributes a plaintiff’s own level of fault at 50% or less, their recovery will be diminished in proportion to their level of attributed fault. The burden rests with the defendant to prove that the plaintiff was partially responsible for their injury.
Modified Joint & Several Liability
NJSA § 2A:15-5.3(a) holds joint tortfeasors jointly and severally liable in situations where a court attributed at least 60% of the fault to the tortfeasors (the plaintiff is permitted to be 40% at fault). Joint and several liability means that a plaintiff would be permitted to collect the full damage award amount from any one, or both, of the tortfeasors.
If a court finds that the tortfeasors are less than 60% at fault, each tortfeasor is only severally liable and thus responsible for solely their percentage of fault.
If a defendant pays more than his share, he has a right to contribution from the remaining defendants.
Compensatory damages are awarded to compensate the plaintiff for injuries suffered as a result of the negligence of the defendant(s). The award is meant to restore the plaintiff – as much as possible – to the condition they were in prior to the injury occurring.
Actual damages are meant to reimburse the plaintiff for out-of-pocket expenses for items such as medical treatment, prescriptions, surgery or emergency medical expenses. General damages may also be awarded for pain and suffering, mental anguish, loss of opportunity, and loss of future income.
Punitive damages are designed to require the defendant to pay an amount of money that is sufficient to punish the defendant for particular conduct and to deter the defendant from future misconduct. To support an award of punitive damages, it must be proven by clear and convincing evidence that the injury was the result of the defendant’s acts or omissions and that the conduct was either malicious or the defendant acted with wanton and willful disregard of the plaintiff’s rights.
Under New Jersey law, malicious conduct is defined as an intentional wrongdoing in the sense of an evil-minded act. Willful and wanton conduct is considered to be a deliberate act or omission, with knowledge of a high degree of probability that harm would come to another person with a reckless indifference to the consequences.
To meet the “clear and convincing evidence” burden of proof necessary for an award of punitive damages, the jury must have have a firm belief or conviction that the allegations against the defendant are true.
In New Jersey, if punitive damages are awarded, they must be capped at five times the amount of compensatory damages or $350,000, whichever is greater.
The law firm of Walker Morgan is located at 135 E Main St., Lexington, SC 29072. All lawyers at Walker Morgan are licensed to practice law in the State of South Carolina. Should you wish to retain our firm for legal representation regarding a potential case in any other jurisdiction we are required to associate local counsel in that foreign jurisdiction and seek permission from a court of the foreign jurisdiction to temporarily engage in the practice of law therein for purposes of pursuing your potential claim only.
By offering the following information the lawyers at Walker Morgan are not offering legal advice or legal guidance. The lawyers at Walker Morgan are not licensed to practice law in New Jersey. Should you have a question/concern specific to New Jersey law, please contact an attorney licensed to practice law in the State of New Jersey.