Individual States 

ALASKA

ASSUMPTION OF RISK

The defense of assumption of risk is no longer available as a defense to bar recovery. Leavitt v. Gillaspie, 443 P.2d 61 (Alaska 1968) .

CAPS ON NONECONOMIC DAMAGES

Personal injury claims, where damages are awarded for severe permanent physical impairment or severe disfigurement, shall not exceed the greater of $1,000,000 or the person's life expectancy in years multiplied by $25,000. All other noneconomic damages shall not exceed the greater of $400,000 or the injured person's life expectancy in years multiplied by $8,000. Alaska Stat. §09.17.010 .

COLLATERAL SOURCE RULE

After award has been rendered, as well as costs and attorney fees, defendant may introduce evidence of compensation from collateral sources where there is no right to subrogation by law or contract. This statute does not apply if under federal law the benefits cannot be reduced or offset, the proceeds are from a deceased's life insurance policy, or they are gratuitous benefits provided to claimant. Alaska Stat. §09.17.070 .

A tortfeasor's insurer is not a collateral source. Liimatta v. Vest, 45 P.3d 310 (Alaska 2002) .

COMPARATIVE FAULT

Contributory fault chargeable to the claimant diminishes proportionately the amount awarded as compensatory damages, but does not bar recovery. It also applies to strict liability where the plaintiff misused the product, or knowingly used an unsafe product. Alaska Stat. §09.17.060 ; General Motors Corp. v. Farnsworth, 965 P.2d 1209 (Alaska 1998) .

ECONOMIC LOSS

"Intermediate approach" to the economic loss doctrine -- When a defective product creates a situation potentially dangerous to persons or other property, and loss occurs as a result of that danger, plaintiff may recover in strict products liability, even though the damage is confined to the product itself. In all other cases, plaintiff may only recover in tort if he can show either personal injury or damage to "other property". Pratt & Whitney Canada Inc. v. Sheehan, 852 P.2d 1173 (Alaska 1993) .

JOINT & SEVERAL LIABILITY

Each party is severally liable in accordance with that party's percentage of fault. Alaska Stat. §09.17.080(d) .

PUNITIVE DAMAGES

At a separate proceeding before the same fact finder, plaintiff must prove by clear and convincing evidence, that defendant acted outrageously, with malice or bad motives, or indifferently to another person's interests. If so, the punitive damages may not exceed three times compensatory damages, or $500,000, whichever is greater. Alaska Stat. §09.17.020(f)(1) and (2) .

For actions determined to be motivated by financial gain with defendant foreknowledge of adverse consequences, then damages will be: Four times compensatory damages, four times resultant financial gain, or $7,000,000, whichever is greater; (2) Action is brought by an employee against an employer: $200,000 for employers with fewer than 100 in-state employees; $300,000 for fewer than 200 in-state employees; $400,000 for 200-499 in-state employees; $500,000 for 500 or more in-state employees. Alaska Stat. §09.17.020(g) to (h) .

Punitive damages may not be awarded against an employer held in vicarious liability unless certain conditions are met. Note that the state will retain 50 percent of any punitive damages awards, but may not file or join any action therefore. Alaska Stat. §09.17.020(j) .

Note: there is pending legislation which aims to raise the punitive damages caps for actions resulting from aviation accidents against owners and operators of aviation businesses as follows: $500,000 for 1-99 in-state employees; $750,000 for 100-199; $1,000,000 for 200 or more. H.B. 129, 23d Leg., 1st Sess. (Alaska 2003) .

RIGHT TO CONTRIBUTION

There is no contribution among joint tortfeasors after Alaska law expressly and unambiguously terminated all provisions for contribution between joint tortfeasors, as it was intended to create a pure several liability obligation as to each individual tortfeasor. Alaska Stat. §09.17.080(d) ; Carriere v. Cominco Alaska, Inc., 823 F. Supp. 680 (D. Alaska 1993) .

SPECIAL DEFENSES

A substantial alteration or change in a product that is shown to have proximately caused the plaintiff's injury after it leaves the manufacturer will ordinarily bar recovery on a strict liability claim. Hiller v. Kawasaki Motors Corp. U.S.A., 671 P.2d 369 (Alaska 1983) .

State of the art or industry custom evidence is not conclusive as to liability in tort, but may be considered by the jury in a product liability case even though it is not dispositive of the liability issue. Keogh v. W.R. Grasle, Inc., 816 P.2d 1343 (Alaska 1991) .

STATUTES OF LIMITATION

There is a two-year statute of limitation for personal injury, wrongful death, and property damage. Alaska Stat. §§09.10.070 and 09.55.580 .

Actions for breach of contract must be commenced within four years. By the original agreement the parties may reduce the period of limitation to not less than one year but may not extend it. However, in a breach of warranty action, unless the warranty "explicitly extends to future performance" – which an implied warranty does not – the four-year statute of limitation begins to run on the date the product is purchased, rather than the date the injury occurs. Alaska Stat. §45.02.725 .

STATUTES OF REPOSE

There is no statute of repose for product liability actions in Alaska

STRUCTURED SETTLEMENT

In any action where future damages are awarded by the court or jury, the court shall, at the request of an injured party, order that amounts be paid to the maximum extent feasible by periodic payments rather than by a lump-sum. Alaska Stat. §09.17.040 .