Joint and Several Liability

I have a case that was filed before Nov. 1, 2011, but I added two parties to the lawsuit after Nov. 1 2011, with an amended petition. Since then I have settled with the party I filed suit against before Nov. 1, 2011, but not with the two parties I added to the petition after Nov. 1, 2011. My question is does the 2011 joint and several law apply to the these parties, or the 2004 joint and several law apply to them? Defense counsel is arguing that it does not apply to them since they were brought into the suit after Nov. 1, 2011.

It shouldn’t matter when the defendant was brought into the suit. The various versions of the joint and several liability statute, 23 O.S. 15, apply to actions which “accrue” before the enactment date. A tort action “accrues” when the tort occurs (when the SOL begins to run), not when suit is filed. I have included a portion of a brief on that:

Defendants have indicated an intention to claim this case is governed by a 2009 amendment to Oklahoma’s Joint and Several Liability Statute, 23 O.S. § 15. The amendment has no application here and Defendants’ assertion otherwise is an impediment to resolution. Instead, the pre-2009 version (equivalent to common law joint and several law) applies. Our joint and several liability statute has, in its several permutations, always applied only to actions which “accrue” after the effective date.

The primary rule for determining when a statutory amendment takes effect is the language of the amendment itself. Here, as noted, the amendment does not take effect when a particular cause of action is “filed” but rather when it “accrues.” A cause of action “accrues” at the point at which a plaintiff could first maintain an action–or when the statute of limitations begins to run.1 Of course, the statute of limitations begins to run in a personal injury action when the injury occurs, not when the action is filed (or a statute of limitations would never “run”). Here, thus, the action accrued when the wreck occurred, on September 30, 2008, and thus the pre-2009 version of 23 O.S. § 15 supples the rule for this action.

1 Cowert v. Piper Aircraft Co., 1983 OK 66, 665 P.2d 315.