NRS 41.133 states that when "an offender has been convicted of the crime which resulted in the injury to the victim, the judgment of conviction is conclusive evidence of all facts necessary to impose civil liability for the injury."
In Cromer v. Wilson, 126 Nev. Adv. Op. No. 11 (March 11, 2010), the Nevada Supreme Court addressed the effect of this conclusive evidence of liability on the issues of comparative negligence and damages. The defendant was convicted of felony DUI and felony reckless driving in an accident that severely injured the plaintiff.
The district court had allowed the jury to decide the issue of liability instead of granting the plaintiff’s motion for summary judgment. The jury found the defendant liable. In determining liability, the jury was allowed to consider comparative negligence, and it found the plaintiff 25% at fault and the defendant 75% at fault. The jury returned a verdict in favor of the plaintiff and awarded $4,530,785.50 in damages.
On appeal, the Nevada Supreme Court held that NRS 41.133 establishes a conclusive presumption of liability when an offender has been convicted of the crime that resulted in the injury to the victim. Thus, the district court should have granted the plaintiff’s motion for summary judgment on the issue of liability, and the trial should have resolved only the issue of damages.
However, the Court also held that NRS 41.133 does not abrogate the law regarding comparative negligence or damages. Therefore, while NRS 41.133 establishes a conclusive presumption of liability, a defendant may argue comparative negligence pursuant to NRS 41.141 to reduce an award of damages at a trial as to damages only.
Steve is the Managing Shareholder of Steven J. Klearman & Associates, a civil litigation law firm located in Reno, Nevada. He practices primarily in the areas of civil litigation and injury law, and has authored one of the definitive guides to Nevada civil law that is widely used by Nevada judges and attorneys, his book entitled Elements of Nevada Legal Theories.