Difference Between the Three Setoff Statutes and Apportionment Provisions Including Economic and Noneconomic Damages
The Court Highlights Critical Difference in the Interrelationship Between the Three Setoff Statutes and Apportionment Provisions Including Economic and Noneconomic Damages:
In Wells v. Tallahassee Mem'l Reg'l Med. Ctr., Inc., 659 So. 2d 249, 253 (Fla. 1995), the Court considered the interrelationship between the three setoff statutes and the apportionment provisions of section 768.81.
The court highlighted the critical difference this interrelationship makes between economic and noneconomic damages.
Wells filed suit against Tallahassee Memorial Regional Medical Center (TMRMC) and two other defendants. Wells settled with all the defendants except TMRMC. Wells, 659 So. 2d at 250.
The jury was instructed to apportion fault, if any, among all the defendants. Id.
The jury returned a verdict for economic and noneconomic damages, finding TMRMC 90% at fault and the other two defendants each 5% at fault. Id.
TMRMC requested a setoff, arguing that the judgment should be reduced by the total amount paid by the settling defendants. Id.
This Court concluded that the setoff statutes do not apply to noneconomic damages for which defendants are only severally liable pursuant to section 768.81(3), but held that the setoff statutes continue to apply to economic damages for which parties continue to be subject to joint and several liability. Wells, 659 So. 2d at 253.
To facilitate the pretrial application of this differentiation, the Court adopted a rule for determining the amount of the economic damages setoff in an undifferentiated economic and noneconomic damages settlement. See id. at 254.
The Court held that each defendant is solely responsible for its share of the noneconomic damages and that only that portion of the settlement which represents a recovery for economic damages is available to offset a defendant's liability for economic damages.
The portion of the settlement which represents economic damages is then based on the percentage of economic to noneconomic damages as determined by the jury. See id.
The formula used in Wells to determine the amount of the judgment is set forth below:
(1) economic damages / total jury award = percentage of jury's award allocated to economic damages;
(2) settlements x percentage of jury's award allocated to economic damages = portion of settlements that nonsettling defendant is entitled to set off;
(3) economic damages - portion of settlements that nonsettling defendant is entitled to set off - social security benefits = economic damages for which nonsettling defendant is liable;
(4) noneconomic damages x percentage of fault apportioned to nonsettling defendant = noneconomic damages for which nonsettling defendant is liable;
(5) economic damages for which nonsettling defendant is liable + noneconomic damages for which nonsettling defendant is liable + costs = nonsettling defendant's liability. Wells, 659 So. 2d at 254 n.3.