Why Not Comparative Negligence in Washington?

Hon. Edward E. Henry, Why Not Comparative Negligence in Washington?, 5 Gonz. L. Rev. 1 (1969)


One need only preside at a personal injury maritime case where comparative negligence is the rule, to appreciate the fairness of the doctrine as compared with the sometimes unjust result of a contributory negligence case. For example, consider the case of Richard Craft, a seaman who slipped and fell while boarding the S.S. ANCHORAGE at Anchorage, Alaska, one wintry morning. There was ice on the gangplank, and Craft claimed the defendant was negligent in failing to provide a safe place to work. The jury found his damages to be the sum of $13,050, but since his negligence was only45 per cent of the whole, they gave him the judgment in the sum of$7,166.50.

Contrast that with the case of Mrs. Marion T. Quinn against Marketime Foods. She slipped and fell on ice in front of the defendant’s store, and the jury found her damages to be the sum of $20,000.On appeal the Washington Supreme Court reversed, asserting among other things that the issue of contributory negligence should have been submitted to the jury.

Thus, even though the jury found thatthe store was negligent, Mrs. Quinn may receive nothing from herinjury.One sleeps well the night after the verdict in the seaman’s case,feeling justice has been done; but when the supreme court suggestscontributory negligence in Mrs. Quinn’s case, one worries about theinjustice of the probable result.

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