Tort Law

Concurrent Negligence

This page within Virginia Tort Law is an explanation of the concept of concurrent negligence and a compilation of cases reported by the Virginia Supreme Court and summarized by Brien Roche dealing with the topic of Concurrent Negligence and the related topic of personal injury.  For more information on negligence issues see the page on Wikipedia. 

Concurrent Negligence is a principle in Tort Law which indicates that where the negligence of two (2) defendants concurs to cause a single injury, then both defendants may be liable.  As to the arguable negligence of each defendant, there must be some factual predicate that establishes that. 

The issue of concurrent negligence becomes problematic where the two acts of negligence do not concur temporally.  For instance, where the negligence of a nurse preceded the alleged negligence of a doctor who could have intervened to prevent the injury, then their negligence may still be concurrent because the negligence of the nurse continued up to the time when the doctor saw the patient in trouble.  If however the negligence of the nurse had occurred days before then that connection may be more tenuous and therefore any argument that the negligence of the nurse concurs with the negligence of the doctor becomes difficult. 

In your typical automobile tort where there are separate acts of negligence but they are each a cause of injury and it is impossible to apportion the injury, then either or both of those acts may be responsible for the entire injury.  The same applies in a rear end accident case where there are several vehicles that are impacting each other.  Where separate and independent acts of negligence of two parties are direct cause of a single injury to a third person and it is impossible to apportion the injury, then either or both may be responsible. 

What is important to remember in terms of concurrent negligence is that the negligence of the two defendants is not necessarily able to be quantified nor does it have to be compared.  If in fact the negligence of each is a cause of injury, then each party may be liable. 

Concurrent Negligence-Cases

2004 Chandler v. Graffeo, 268 Va. 673, 604 S.E.2d 1.

In this medical malpractice action, plaintiff sought instruction as to concurrent negligence of two physicians. The only evidence as to Dr. King’s negligence was from a panel proceeding which so opined. Evidence of negligence must come from some source other than expert testimony. Since there was not factual predicate as to the negligence of Dr. King, the trial court properly refused to grant an instruction on this issue.

1996 Jenkins v. Payne, 251 Va. 122, 465 S.E.2d 795.

Medical malpractice action where two doctors were subject to same standard of care and both failed to diagnose cancer. Non-settling defendant sought to offer evidence that settling physician was negligent in his treatment of decedent. That was irrelevant and properly excluded since reasonable persons could not conclude from evidence that non-settling defendant’s negligence alone caused death.

1992 Fairfax Hosp. Sys. v. McCarty, 244 Va. 28, 419 S.E.2d 621.

Negligence of nurse preceded alleged negligence of doctor who could have intervened to prevent injury. Nonetheless, negligence and causation as to hospital due to negligence of its employee nurse was still jury issue.

1980 Newton v. Veney & Raines, 220 Va. 947, 265 S.E.2d 707.

Plaintiff did not know which of two defendants caused accident; obviously not unavoidable accident. Plaintiff presented sufficient evidence to avoid motion to strike.

1967 Dickenson v. Tabb, 208 Va. 184, 156 S.E.2d 795.

Defendant caused first collision and thereby obstructed roadway resulting in second collision involving co-defendant. Where separate acts of negligence are cause of injury and it is impossible to apportion injury, then either or both are responsible.

1966 Maroulis v. Elliott, 207 Va. 503, 151 S.E.2d 339.

Rear-ender, multiple vehicles. Where separate and independent acts of negligence of two parties are direct cause of single injury to third person and it is impossible to apportion injury, either or both are responsible.

1965 Vought v. Jones, 205 Va. 719, 139 S.E.2d 810.

Defendant parked truck on side of street. Plaintiff struck by co-defendant while crossing behind truck. Jury issue as to concurrent negligence of both defendants.

1956 Birtcherd Dairy, Inc. v. Edwards, 197 Va. 830, 91 S.E.2d 421.

Evidence presented issue of fact as to concurrent negligence of defendants. It was thus error for court to instruct jury that they could not find in favor of both defendants. This was in effect, direction of verdict against at least one defendant.

1955 Von Roy v. Whitescarver, 197 Va. 384, 89 S.E.2d 346.

If two defendants are negligent, one of them can not be exonerated by urging and showing negligence of other. Where concurring negligence of two produces single injury and each is its proximate cause, they are both liable.

1950 Interstate Veneer Co. v. Edwards, 191 Va. 107, 60 S.E.2d 4.

Defendant alleged steering mechanism broke. If negligence of defendant concurred with broken mechanism to cause accident, then defendant is liable.

1948 Murray v. Smithson, 187 Va. 759, 48 S.E.2d 239.

Where separate independent acts of negligence of two parties are direct cause of single injury and it is impossible to determine proportion, then either or both are responsible.

1948 Schools v. Walker, 187 Va. 619, 47 S.E.2d 418.

Where concurring negligence of two defendants produces single injury and each is its proximate cause. then both are liable.

1946 Harris Motor Lines v. Green, 184 Va. 984, 37 S.E.2d 4.

Where negligence of both parties continues to moment of injury and contributes to injury, then no recovery allowed.

1945 Brown v. Wallace, 184 Va. 570, 35 S.E.2d 793.

If without more, two autos run into each other on intersecting highways, then there can be no recovery since each had equal chance to avoid accident.

1944 Luck v. Rice, 182 Va. 373, 29 S.E.2d 238.

In case involving concurrent negligence, comparative degrees of negligence are not to be considered.

1942 Remine v. Whited, 180 Va. 1, 21 S.E.2d 743.

Two vehicles approaching at right angles with no obstructions and under control, collide. Concurrent negligence involved.

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Concurrent Negligence

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