On Thanksgiving, Facebook user Sharon Weiss set the internet on fire after a social media post about her Marie Callender pie. She posted a photo of her badly burned pie to Marie Callender’s Facebook page with the caption, “Thanks Marie Callender for ruining Thanksgiving dessert.” Many Facebook users determined Sharon was at fault for not following the directions printed on the back of the box. The incident led to lots of memes and social media commentary. There is even a Facebook group with more than 100,000 users posting memes and sharing their encounters with the "Sharons" in their life. This begs the question from a legal perspective: who is actually to blame?
What is Pure Comparative Negligence?
Pure comparative negligence is a legal principle which analyzes the actions of the parties and determines the degree of each person’s fault in causing damages. For example, a judge or jury may find that a plaintiff is 20% at fault, but the defendant is 80% at fault in causing an accident. If the total awarded damages are $200,000, the plaintiff would be awarded 80% of that total amount, because she was found to be 20% negligent herself. Florida is one of five states that utilizes pure comparative negligence. So, in Florida, if you are found to be comparatively at fault in your car accident, you still may be able to collect damages, but it will be reduced by the percentage that you were found to be at fault.
What is Pure Contributory Negligence?
Contrary to pure comparative negligence, pure contributory negligence bars an individual from collecting damages if they are deemed at fault in any way – even if they are minimally at fault. The 4 states that use pure contributory negligence are Alabama, Maryland, Virginia, and North Carolina, as well as Washington D.C. There is also a legal principle called modified comparative negligence. However, modified comparative negligence is not being discussed in this blog to focus on the law in Florida.
What are some examples of pure comparative negligence as compared to pure contributory negligence?
Scenario 1: Joan was involved in a Florida car accident where the driver, Tom, ran a red light. The courts determined she was not at fault as she was observing the speed limit and the traffic light was green. In both a pure comparative negligence state such as Florida and in a pure contributory negligence state, Joan is entitled to 100% of the damages.
Scenario 2: Jack was hit by a car while walking in the crosswalk of a busy intersection in North Carolina. While walking, Jack was texting and not paying attention to the signal which deemed it was not the pedestrian’s turn to cross. The courts determined Jack was 40% at fault. Therefore, he is entitled to 0% of the damages amount because North Carolina is a pure contributory negligence state. However, if Jack was in Florida, and the circumstances of his accident were the same, then Jack could recover damages, but they would be reduced by 40%.
Scenario 3: Sharon Weiss is warming up a Marie Callender’s Pumpkin Pie for her family’s Thanksgiving gathering. Even if the instructions were misprinted and said to “broil the pie for 45 minutes”, Sharon would not be entitled to damages because she did not use her own good common sense.
Why is comparative negligence important to my personal injury claim?
Florida is a pure comparative negligence state as outlined in statute 768.81. So even if you think that you may not have a case, it is important to speak with an experienced Florida personal injury attorney. Contact the Simpson-Cannon Law firm today to see if we can help.