I am a little worried that I do not immediately grasp the significance of Rep. Lawson’s proposed legislation in HB 1318 which changes the definition of “nonparty” in civil litigation. A “nonparty” usually refers to someone involved in an incident that caused damage to someone but who has not been named as a party in the lawsuit. Typically, a victim will sue a tortfeasor for damage caused by that person. The tortfeasor will respond, in part, by saying, “hey, it’s not my fault, it’s Nonparty’s fault.” The victim then has an opportunity (usually) to bring the nonparty into the litigation, but if the nonparty is not named as a party, the nonparty can still be an “empty chair” at trial to whom a jury can assign some or all of the fault. (The nonparty would not be liable to the victim for the jury’s decision in this regard, rather the damage attributable to the nonparty would be money the victim could not recover from the tortfeasor who was named as a defendant.)
In any case, Rep. Lawson’s legislation would change the definition of nonparty from:
A person who caused or contributed to cause the alleged injury, death, or damage to property who has not been joined in the action as a defendant.
a person who may be liable to the claimant, in whole or in part, for the damage claimed, but who has not been joined in the action as a defendant. The term does not include an employer of a claimant.
The part about the employer is particularly weird to me. What if an employer contributed to whatever injury a Defendant is accused of having caused? In that situation, the Defendant shouldn’t be limited in his defense simply because the victim’s relationship to the other tortfeasor happens to be that of employee/employer.