Joint-Several Liability, Minn. Stat. 604.02

Minnesota case law summary by Attorney Richard Clem: Joint-Several Liability, Minn. Stat. 604.02.

Alice Ann Staab v. Diocese of St. Cloud. Joint-Several Liability, Minn. Stat. 604.02

Alice Staab was injured at Holy Cross Parish School when her husband Richard pushed her wheelchair through an open doorway and over an unmarked five-inch drop-off. She sued the Diocese of St. Cloud, alleging that this was an unreasonable risk of harm. A jury assigned 50% of the negligence to the Diocese, and 50% to the husband, who was not a party to the case. In an earlier appeal in the case, the Minnesota Supreme Court held that Minn. Stat. 604.02 limited the amount collectible from the defendant to its share of the fault.

On remand, the district court reallocated the fault under the statute, and entered judgment against the Diocese for the full amount of damages. The Minnesota Court of Appeals affirmed, and the Diocese appealed to the Minnesota Supreme Court.

Under the statute, the court may reallocate damages when a portion of one tortfeasor's damages is uncollectible.

The Minnesota Supreme Court held: A party that is severally liable under Minn. Stat. 604.02 cannot be ordered to contribute more than that party’s equitable share of the total damages award under the reallocation-of-damages provision in that statute.

Justices Lillehaug and Page dissented.

Nos. A12-1575 and A12-1972 (Minn. Sept. 10, 2014)

Please see the original opinion for the court's exact language.


Richard P. Clem is an attorney and continuing legal education (CLE) provider in Minnesota. He has been in private practice in the Twin Cities for 25 years. He has a J.D., cum laude, from Hamline University School of Law in St. Paul and a B.A. in History from the University of Minnesota. His reported cases include: Asociacion Nacional de Pescadores a Pequena Escala o Artesanales de Colombia v. Dow Quimica de Colombia, 988 F.2d 559, rehearing denied, 5 F.3d 530 (5th Cir. 1993), cert. denied, 510 U.S. 1041 (1994); LaMott v. Apple Valley Health Care Center, 465 N.W.2d 585 (Minn. Ct. App. 1991); Abo el Ela v. State, 468 N.W.2d 580 (Minn. Ct. App. 1991).

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