Kevin P. Farrell                    Darla S. Brown
Angela Herod                        Bloomington, Indiana
Indianapolis, Indiana                
                                ATTORNEY FOR AMICUS CURIAE,
Ross E. Rudolph                    Thomas Doehrman
James D. Johnson                    Indianapolis, Indiana
Evansville, Indiana                    



DENNIS MENDENHALL and            )
TINA MENDENHALL,                   )
Appellants (Plaintiffs Below       ),)  Cause No. 49S04-9811-CV-740
                                   )  in the Supreme Court
v.                                 )  
                                   )  Cause No. 49A04-9709-CV-393
SKINNER AND BROADBENT CO.,         )  in the Court of Appeals
INC.                               )
Appellee (Defendant Below          ).    )

The Honorable David A. Jester
Cause No. 49D13-9606-CT-767

May 17, 2000

SHEPARD, Chief Justice.

The defendant in this tort case suffered judgment and then sought credit for money paid by a settling co-defendant who had not been added back under the nonparty provisions of the Comparative Fault Act. Is credit available under these circumstances? We hold it is not.

Facts and Procedural History

This case arose out of injuries Dennis Mendenhall suffered when he slipped and fell in a parking lot. Skinner and Broadbent Co., Inc. owned the parking lot, although it was used by patrons of Stewart Tire Co. The Mendenhalls filed suit against both Stewart Tire and Skinner. On the first morning of trial, Stewart Tire settled with the Mendenhalls for $15,000, and Stewart was dismissed from the suit. Counsel for Skinner moved orally to credit the amount of the settlement against any potential damages following the jury verdict.

In a jury trial between the Mendenhalls and Skinner, the jury found for the plaintiffs and assessed damages in the amount of $80,000. Pursuant to the Comparative Fault Act, it found Dennis Mendenhall was 50% at fault and Skinner was 50% at fault. Accordingly, the jury rendered a verdict of $40,000 against Skinner and Broadbent.

Skinner moved to set off the final verdict by the amount of Stewart’s settlement. The trial court granted the motion and amended the judgment, crediting it with $15,000 the Mendenhalls received in settlement, $5,000 in medical expenses Stewart had paid the Mendenhalls before trial, and $5,000 in medical expenses Skinner had paid the Mendenhalls before trial. See footnote This reduced the judgment against Skinner from $40,000 to $15,000.

The Mendenhalls appealed this amendment of the judgment. The Court of Appeals affirmed. Mendenhall v. Skinner & Broadbent Co., 693 N.E.2d 611 (Ind. Ct. App. 1998).

I. Our Common Law Rule

Indiana courts have traditionally followed the one satisfaction principle. By this we have meant that courts should take account of settlement agreements and credit the funds received by the plaintiff through such agreements, pro tanto, toward the judgment against a co-defendants. The principle behind this credit is that the injured party is entitled to only one satisfaction for a single injury and the payment by one joint tortfeasor inures to the benefit of all. Sanders v. Cole Mun. Fin., 489 N.E.2d 117 (Ind. Ct. App. 1986). This policy was articulated, of course, long before enactment of the Comparative Fault Act. The issue before us today is thus one of first impression, whether the Act necessitates changes in this common law practice.

The Mendenhalls argue that credits or set-offs, amounts received in settlement, did not survive the Comparative Fault Act. They contend that the Act makes the nonparty defense the defendant’s sole method for reducing liability where another party settles. Conversely, Skinner and Broadbent maintains that credits did and should survive the Act. In so asserting, Skinner relies on the Act’s language, case law, and public policy. We examine these arguments in turn. See footnote