UCATAUniform Contribution Among Tortfeasors Act of 1955
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Colorado and Arizona make up a second subclass of UCATA jurisdictions.
Arizona, which adopted UCATA in 1984, has long interpreted willful and wanton conduct as simply a degree of negligence commonly grouped with recklessness under the aegis of gross or aggravated negligence.
It recognized that the demarcation is based on quality rather than degree--essentially the same distinction made by UCATA. More important, however, the court also indicated that the same analysis and definition of willful and wanton conduct for the purposes of the punitive damage statute would control for the purposes of the state's uniform contribution statute.
So Colorado appears to be in accordance with the UCATA drafters on the issue of the type of conduct barring contribution.
Florida and North Dakota constitute the last subclass of Section 1(c) UCATA jurisdictions.
The jury answered "yes" and underlined the words "reckless indifference" and "rights of others." The trial court granted a new trial based on the fact that the words the jury underlined did not expressly appear in the statutory language of the UCATA bar.
On appeal, the Florida Court of Appeal reversed, holding that willful or wanton conduct or conduct that displays a "reckless indifference to the rights of others" could be tantamount to intentional conduct for the purposes of the Florida UCATA contribution bar, even though the words "reckless indifference" do not appear in the statute.
With so few reported cases analyzing the UCATA bar to contribution, it is not surprising that even fewer cases exist deciding the issue of whether a party who is only vicariously liable for another's intentional, willful or wanton misconduct may be barred from receiving contribution, or must "managing agent" conduct, and thus direct liability, be involved before application of the bar is warranted.
The text of UCATA is silent on the issue of vicarious liability in the context of intentional conduct.
In this underlying litigation, District Court Judge Highsmith then considered whether Florida's version of UCATA should serve to bar American's claim for contribution based on the finding that the carrier was vicariously liable for the "willful misconduct" of its pilots as defined by the Warsaw Convention.
Thus, at least under the interpretation given to the Florida UCATA statute by both Judges Highsmith and Ungaro-Benages, vicarious liability alone will not suffice to trigger the UCATA contribution bar.
In Cali, the jury did not ultimately find that the UCATA contribution bar had been met, although it did assign American 75 percent of the responsibility, as against 17 percent and 8 percent for Jeppesen Sanderson and Honeywell, respectively.