Negligence

Under Vermont law, the elements of negligence are: (1) the defendant owed a legal duty to conform to a certain standard of conduct so as to protect the plaintiff from an unreasonable risk of harm; (2) the defendant breached this duty by failing to conform to the standard of conduct required; (3) the conduct of the defendant, which was in breach of the duty owed, proximately caused injury to the plaintiff; and (4) the plaintiff suffered an actual loss or damage.

Assumption of Risk

In Sunday v. Stratton Corporation, 136 Vt. 293, 390 A.2d 398 (1978), the court abolished the assumption of risk doctrine as a valid defense in a negligence action due to the doctrine conflicting with the modified comparative negligence approach.

Modified Comparative Negligence

The law (12 V.S.A. § 1036) in Vermont allows a plaintiff to recover for a personal injury caused by the negligent actions of another as long as the plaintiff was 50% or less at fault for the injury. If this is the case, the plaintiff’s damage award will be reduced in proportion to the percentage of fault assigned to the plaintiff, if any.

For example, if a plaintiff is awarded $100,000 in damages but 20% of fault is attributed to the plaintiff for their own injury, the plaintiff’s damage award would be reduced to $80,000 to account for the 20% of fault assigned to the plaintiff.

Where the plaintiff is found to have been 51% or more at fault for their own injury, the plaintiff may be barred from monetary recovery.

Joint & Several Liability

In Vermont, 12 V.S.A. § 1036, states that where recovery is allowed against more than one defendant, each defendant is liable for the proportion of the total dollar amount awarded as damages in the ratio of the amount of his causal negligence to the amount of causal negligence attributed to all defendants against whom recovery is allowed. In other words, each defendant is severally liable and thus only financially responsible for the percentage of fault attributed to each respective defendant.

Damages

Compensatory Damages

Compensatory damages are awarded by a court intended 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.

Compensatory damages include reasonable expenses necessary for medical care; hospitalization and treatment; economic loss from loss of income (both past and future); as well as for pain and suffering; disability; disfigurement; and mental anguish.

Punitive Damages

Vermont law requires a plaintiff show two elements to recover punitive damages: (1) “wrongful conduct that is outrageously reprehensible” and (2) malice. In Fly Fish Vt., Inc. v. Chapin Hill Estates, Inc., 2010 VT 33, 996 A.2d 1167, the Vermont Supreme Court has held that punitive damages are meant to punish morally culpable conduct which causes that degree of outrage usually associated with crime. However, it is not enough that the conduct be illegal or merely wrongful, it must be “truly reprehensible.”

DISCLAIMER:

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 Vermont. Should you have a question/concern specific to Vermont law, please contact an attorney licensed to practice law in the State of Vermont.