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DECISIONS DECISIONS n CIVIL PRACTICE in an admiralty tort case, the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled on May 9 that a settling defendant cannot sue for contribution a nonsettling defendant whose liability was not resolved by the settlement agreement. Murphy v. Florida Keys Electric Cooperative Ass’n Inc., No. 02-11574. Two brothers, Brendan and Steven Murphy, and their friend, Raymond Ashman IV, went out on a boat owned by Ashman’s father. In a collision with an electrical pole support, Brendan was killed while the others were injured. The Murphys sued the Florida Keys Electric Cooperative, which owned the support, for wrongful death and injuries. Florida Keys filed a third-party contribution claim against the Ashmans. The Ashmans then counterclaimed for Raymond’s injuries. Florida Keys settled with the Murphys, but did not release the Ashmans from liability. Nonetheless, a Florida federal court granted the Ashmans’ motion for summary judgment on the third-party complaint. Reversing, the 11th Circuit said that under the proportionate share approach, if at least one defendant does not settle with the plaintiff, the amount of damages and the percentage of liability attributable to each tortfeasor may be determined at trial, and any nonsettling defendant is responsible for only the proportion of the total damages attributed to it in the verdict.

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