Individual States 

VERMONT

ASSUMPTION OF RISK

Assumption of risk has been held by Vermont courts as a complete bar to recovery in strict products liability and negligence. Webb v. Navistar Int'l Transp. Corp., 166 Vt. 119 (1996); Prouty v. Manchester Motors, 143 Vt. 449 (1983) .

CAPS ON NONECONOMIC DAMAGES

There are no exclusive Products Liability statutes under this category.

COLLATERAL SOURCE RULE

The collateral source rule may apply to actions sounding in contract, as well as in tort. Hall v. Miller, 143 Vt. 135 (1983).

COMPARATIVE FAULT

Comparative liability principles are applicable in strict products liability actions. Webb v. Navistar Int'l Transp. Corp., 166 Vt. 119 (1996) .

Contributory negligence shall not bar recovery, but plaintiff's award for damages will be reduced by the percentage of plaintiff's own negligence up to 50 percent of the total liability. If the plaintiff is more than 50 percent at fault then all recovery is barred. Vt. Stat. Ann. tit 12 §1036 .

ECONOMIC LOSS

Vermont does not permit a tort claim to proceed where purely economic damages have been suffered. This is true even if the defective product was destroyed in a dangerous occurrence. Notwithstanding, the Supreme Court of Vermont has left open the possibility that, under certain limited circumstances, recovery may be allowed for damages resulting from physical harm only to the defective product itself. Paquette v. Deere & Co., 168 Vt. 258 (Vt. 1998) .

Recovery in tort is allowed in cases involving physical harm to persons or property other than the defective product itself. Gus' Catering, Inc. v. Menusoft Sys., 762 A.2d 804 (Vt. 2000) .

A plaintiff can recover purely economic damages for the tort of negligent misrepresentation. Vermont Plastics, Inc. v. Brine, Inc., 824 F.Supp. 444 (D.Vt. 1993) (applying Vermont law).

JOINT & SEVERAL LIABILITY

The Vermont comparative negligence statute, as written, does away with joint and several liability among joint tortfeasors held liable in a judgment. They are liable only severally, and not jointly. Howard v. Spafford, 132 Vt. 434 (1974) ; Vt. Stat. Ann. tit 12 §1036 .

PUNITIVE DAMAGES

Punitive damages in Vermont are permitted where the defendant's wrongdoing has been intentional and deliberate, and has the character of outrage frequently associated with crime. It is not enough to show that defendant's acts are wrongful or unlawful - there must be proof of defendant's bad spirit and wrong intention. Vermont requires a plaintiff to demonstrate that a defendant acted with malice in order to recover punitive damages. Brueckner v. Norwich Univ., 169 Vt. 118 (1999) .

Vermont courts have applied punitive damages within their own cases, irrespective of legal theory, based on other state's products liability actions where such damages were allowed. This safely suggests that a products liability action in Vermont may well include and apply punitive damages. Sweet v. Roy, 173 Vt. 418 (2002) ; Smith v. Ingersoll-Rand Co., 214 F.3d 1235, 1249-50 (10th Cir. 2000) .

The Supreme Court of Vermont can overturn a punitive damage award only if it is manifestly and grossly excessive. The court defers to the discretion of the jury, and also defers to the judgment of the trial court that heard the evidence. Sweet v. Roy, 173 Vt. 418 (2002) .

A jury can award punitive damages only if it has awarded compensatory damages, and Vermont case law has no requirement that there be any particular ratio between the two awards. Sweet v. Roy, 173 Vt. 418 (2002) .

RIGHT TO CONTRIBUTION

There is no right of contribution among joint tortfeasors in Vermont. Each defendant is responsible for its proportionate share of defendant's collective liability, as long as the total combined liability of defendant's exceeds plaintiff's negligence. A plaintiff's award for damages may be reduced by up to 50 percent; should the plaintiff's liability exceed 50 percent, all recovery is barred. Howard v. Spafford, 132 Vt. 434 (1974) ; Vt. Stat. Ann. tit 12 §1036 .

If a settlement is such that a third-party defendant's liability is not extinguished, but reserved, there is still no right to contribution. Howard v. Spafford, 132 Vt. 434 (1974) .

SPECIAL DEFENSES

There are no reported cases that identify special defenses that would bar recovery.

STATUTES OF LIMITATION

Actions in strict liability or negligence, for personal injury or property damage, must be brought within three years. The cause of action will accrue as of the date of discovery. Vt. Stat. Ann. tit 12 §512(4), (5) .

Actions for wrongful death must be commenced within two years from the discovery of the death of the person. Vt. Stat. Ann. tit 12 §1492(a) .

Actions for breach of warranty must be commenced within four years. Vt. Stat. Ann. tit 9 §2-725 .

STATUTES OF REPOSE

There is no relevant statute of repose for product liability actions in Vermont.

STRUCTURED SETTLEMENT

There are no exclusive Products Liability statutes under this category.