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In United States v. Reliable Transfer Co., 421 U. S. 397, 409 (1975) the court decided to abandon a rule that had been followed for over a century in assessing damages when both parties to a collision are at fault. It replaced the divided damages rule, which required an equal division of property damage whatever the relative degree of fault may have been, with a rule requiring that damages be assessed on the basis of proportionate fault when such an allocation can reasonably be made. Although the old rule avoided the difficulty of determining comparative degrees of negligence, the court concluded that it was 'unnecessarily crude and inequitable' and that '[p]otential problems of proof in some cases hardly require adherence to an archaic and unfair rule in all cases.' Id., at 407. Thus the interest in certainty and simplicity served by the old rule was outweighed by the interest in fairness promoted by the proportionate fault rule.


The decision in Reliable Transfer was supported by a consensus among the world's maritime nations and the views of respected scholars and judges. See id., at 403-405.


It is generally agreed that when a plaintiff settles with ...

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