27-1-703. Multiple defendants -- determination of liability. (1) Except as provided in subsections (2) and (3), whenever the negligence of a party in any action is an issue, each party against whom recovery may be allowed is jointly and severally liable for the amount that may be awarded to the claimant but has the right of contribution from any other person whose negligence may have contributed as a proximate cause to the injury complained of.
(2) A party whose negligence is determined to be 50% or less of the combined negligence of all persons described in subsection (4) is severally liable only and is responsible only for the amount of negligence attributable to that party, except as provided in subsection (3). The remaining parties are jointly and severally liable for the total less the amount attributable to the claimant.
(3) A party may be jointly liable for all damages caused by the negligence of another if both acted in concert in contributing to the claimant's damages or if one party acted as an agent of the other.
(4) On motion of any party against whom a claim is asserted for negligence resulting in death or injury to person or property, any other person whose negligence may have contributed as a proximate cause to the injury complained of may be joined as an additional party to the action. For purposes of determining the percentage of liability attributable to each party whose action contributed to the injury complained of, the trier of fact shall consider the negligence of the claimant, injured person, defendants, and third-party defendants. The liability of nonparties, including persons released from liability by the claimant and persons immune from liability to the claimant, must also be considered by the trier of fact, as provided in subsection (6). The trier of fact shall apportion the percentage of negligence of all persons listed in this subsection. Contribution must be proportional to the liability of the parties against whom recovery is allowed. Nothing contained in this section makes any party indispensable pursuant to Rule 19, Montana Rules of Civil Procedure.
(5) If for any reason all or part of the contribution from a party liable for contribution cannot be obtained, each of the other parties shall contribute a proportional part of the unpaid portion of the noncontributing party's share and may obtain judgment in a pending or subsequent action for contribution from the noncontributing party. A party found to be 50% or less negligent for the injury complained of is liable for contribution under this section only up to the percentage of negligence attributed to that party.
(6) (a) In an action based on negligence, a defendant may assert as a defense that the damages of the claimant were caused in full or in part by a nonparty, which may be referred to as a nonparty defense.
(b) In determining the percentage of liability attributable to persons who are parties to the action, the trier of fact shall consider the negligence of nonparties, including persons released from liability by the claimant and persons immune from liability to the claimant, if a nonparty defense is properly asserted in accordance with this subsection (6). A finding of negligence of a nonparty is not a presumptive or conclusive finding as to that nonparty for purposes of a prior or subsequent action involving that nonparty.
(c) The burden of proof as to a nonparty's liability is on the defendant or defendants who affirmatively plead the nonparty defense, but this subsection (6) does not relieve the claimant of the burden of proving that negligence on the part of the defendant or defendants contributed as a proximate cause to the injury of the claimant or alter other proof requirements.
(d) A nonparty defense must be affirmatively pleaded as a part of the answer. A defendant who gains actual knowledge of a nonparty defense after the filing of that defendant's answer may plead the defense with reasonable promptness, as determined by the trial court, in a manner that is consistent with:
(i) giving the defendant a reasonable opportunity to discover the existence of a nonparty defense;
(ii) giving the claimant a reasonable opportunity to defend against a nonparty defense; and
(iii) giving the claimant a reasonable opportunity, if appropriate, to add the nonparty as an additional defendant to the action before the expiration of the period of limitation applicable to the claim. However, this subsection (iii) does not extend the period of limitation or revive the action if the period of limitation has expired.
(e) If a defendant asserts a nonparty defense, the defendant shall notify each nonparty who the defendant alleges caused the claimant's injuries, in whole or in part. Notification must be made by mailing the defendant's answer to each nonparty at the nonparty's last-known address by certified mail, return receipt requested.
History: En. 58-607.2 by Sec. 1, Ch. 433, L. 1977; R.C.M. 1947, 58-607.2; amd. Sec. 1, Ch. 523, L. 1981; amd. Sec. 2, Ch. 505, L. 1987; amd. Sec. 1, Ch. 330, L. 1995.