Glassman v. Friedel

In Glassman v. Friedel, the plaintiff sued the restaurant and property owner of the site where his deceased wife fell and fractured her ankle. In an amended complaint, the plaintiff added the Medical Defendants, alleging their negligence during surgery led to postoperative complications and injuries to her right leg, resulting in a fatal embolism. Plaintiff settled with the original defendants for $1.15 million. Citing the holding in Ciluffo v. Middlesex Gen. Hosp., 146 N.J. Super. 476 (App. Div. 1977), the Medical Defendants filed motions seeking a declaration they would be entitled to a pro tanto credit against any potential damage award based on the formula established in Ciluffo. The trial court granted the requested relief. The Appellate Division reversed, concluding that application of a pro tanto settlement credit in a negligence case, whether it involves joint or successive tortfeasors, is a vestige of the common law and has no support in the current jurisprudence. After an extensive discussion of the differences between joint and successive tortfeasors, the Court held that, at trial, a non-settling successive tortfeasor may not only dispute its negligence and the quantum of  damages  it proximately caused,  but the successive tortfeasor may also adduce proof as to the negligence of the settling tortfeasor, and whether the initial tortfeasor’s negligence was a proximate cause of the second “causative event.” The burden of proof is on the non-settling defendant. The Court concluded that it specifically disapproved of the holding in Ciluffo, regarding the award of a potential pro tanto credit in circumstances like the ones in the case at bar.

Glassman