Legal Memorandum: Comparative or Contributory Fault in VI

Issue: How are questions of comparative or contributory fault determined in the Virgin Islands?

Area of Law: Personal Injury & Negligence
Keywords: Comparative or contributory fault; Question of fact
Jurisdiction: Federal, Virgin Islands
Cited Cases: 162 P.2d 759; 323 N.W.2d 93
Cited Statutes: Restatement (Second) of Torts § 360
Date: 11/01/2004

Virgin Islands law is clear that the question whether the plaintiff was contributorily or comparatively negligent is a question of fact for the jury.  Goodall v. V.I. Dev. Corp., 26 V.I. 178, 182 (Terr. Ct. 1991).  In Goodall, the Court cited the Restatement (Second) of Torts pertaining to comparative fault in a premises liability action.

The rule stated in this Section may also apply even though the person injured . . . has knowledge of the existence of the dangerous condition.  His knowledge may put him in contributory fault . . . and in that event he will be disabled from maintaining an action for any harm suffered while using the dangerous premises.  But unless the danger is so apparent and so great that it is unreasonable for him to encounter it in view of the purpose of his use, or unless knowing the danger he fails to exercise that caution which a reasonable man would exercise under the same circumstances, the lessor remains liable to him notwithstanding his knowledge of the existence of the condition.

Id. at 182 (quoting Restatement (Second) of Torts § 360).  The Restatement teaches that the premises owner remains liable unless the plaintiff failed to exercise reasonable care for his or her own safety, knowing of the hazard.  But the issues whether the plaintiff knew of the hazard and whether he or she exercised due care are questions of fact for the jury that preclude summary judgment.  Id.  This Court has stated that “it is well established that […]

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