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Settle Out But Remain On The Verdict Sheet (NJ)

September 12, 2019

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<p style="text-align: justify;">In<em> <a href="">Donna Rowe v. Bell Gossett Company,</a></em> the New Jersey Supreme Court overturned a controversial Appellate decision that made fundamental changes in substantive and evidential requirements to prove allocation of fault among settled-out defendants at trial.</p>
<p style="text-align: justify;">Plaintiff Rowe contracted mesothelioma due to asbestos exposure.  He sued nine different defendants, and all but one settled before trial.  At trial, the remaining defendant Universal moved to admit excerpts from the settled defendants’ interrogatories and deposition testimony of their corporate representatives. On appeal, the court found that the admission of the defendants’ prior discovery was improper.</p>
<p style="text-align: justify;">The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the admitted discovery was admissible as statements against interest, pursuant to N.J.R.E. 803 (c)(25).  Those statements gave rise to a prima facie showing that the settled out defendants bore fault, and the trial court properly submitted to the jury the question of whether a percentage of fault should be apportioned against the settled defendants. This decision will be helpful to defendants when seeking to apportion fault against parties no longer in an action at the time of trial.</p>
<p style="text-align: justify;">Thanks to Heather Aquino for her contribution to this post.  If you have any questions, please contact <a href="">Georgia Coats</a>.</p>


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