Knell v. Feltman
US COA DC - 1949
- Langland and her husband were guest passengers in a car owned and operated by Knell.
- Their car collided with a car owned by Feltman.
- Langland sued Feltman. After Feltman answered, Feltman filed a third-party complaint against Knell, asserting that the accident was partially Knell's fault.
- Jury found that Feltman and Knell were both negligent and that the negligence of each contributed to the accident. P's damages were set at $11.5k.
- Jury awarded Ps the judgment from Feltman and judgment for Feltman against Knell for half of the amount.
- Knell argued that contribution should not apply since he had not been alleged to be a joint tortfeasor by Ps.
- Trial court found granted contribution.
- US COA DC affirmed, granted contribution.
- Can a D be denied contribution from a party because the Ps did not ask or obtain judgment from that party in their case?
- A D cannot be denied contribution from a party if the Ps did not ask or obtain judgment from that party in their case.
- Rule 14(a) of the FRCP provides that a D may bring another person into the action who may be liable to him for all or an part of the damages even if the P does not seek a judgment against that person.
- The right to seek contribution belongs to the D who has been forced to pay, and the existence of the right cannot logically depend upon a selection of Ds made by P.
- When a tort is committed by the concurrent negligence of two or more persons who are not intentional wrongdoers, contribution should be enforced.
- When the parties are not intentional and willful wrongdoers, but are made so by legal inference or intendment, contribution may be enforced.
- Contribution is not allowed among intentional tortfeasors.
- Contribution is not necessary or permitted in jurisdictions that have eliminated joint and several liability.