The Guide is an invaluable online tool for litigation and transactional attorneys. The Guide provides for more than 70 common law causes of action:

- Each action’s elements;
- The most recent state and federal cases that cite the actions’ elements;
- The applicable statute of limitations for each action; and
- Defenses to each cause of action.
- AND, The Guide is updated annually.

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Contribution - Uniform Contribution Among Tortfeasors Act

1 Elements and Case Citations

  1. Money judgment was rendered jointly against Plaintiff and Defendant; and
  2. Plaintiff discharged the joint judgment, or paid more than it’s pro rata share.

The right to contribution is statutorily created in California, and is based on principles of equity finding an implied contract between joint tortfeasors.  Cal. Code Civ. Proc. § 875; Morgan Creek Residential v. Kemp, 153 Cal. App. 4th 675, 684 (2007).

“The pro rata share of each tortfeasor judgment debtor shall be determined by dividing the entire judgment equally among all of them.”  Cal. Code Civ. Proc. § 876(a); see also Cal. Civ. Code § 1432 (“Except as provided in Section 877 of the Code of Civil Procedure, a party to a joint, or joint and several obligation, who satisfies more than his share of the claim against all, may require a proportionate contribution from all the parties joined with him.”).

For procedures relating to motions for findings of good faith settlements and motions for contribution, see California Code of Civil Procedure sections 875, et seq.


Supreme Court of California: Richards v. Owens-Ill., Inc., 14 Cal. 4th 985, 993 (1997).

California 1st Dist.: Lamberton v. Rhodes-Jamieson, 199 Cal. App. 3d 748, 751 n.2 (1988).

California 2d Dist.: Graphic Arts Mut. Ins. Co. v. Time Travel Int’l, Inc., 126 Cal. App. 4th 405, 415 (2005).

California 3d Dist.: Morgan Creek Residential v. Kemp, 153 Cal. App. 4th 675, 684 (2007).

California 4th Dist.: Thomas v. Duggins Construction Co., Inc., 139 Cal. App. 4th 1105, 1111 (2006).

California 5th Dist.: Burton v. Gardner Motors, Inc., 117 Cal. App. 3d 426, 433 (1981); E. B. Wills Co. v. Superior Court, 56 Cal. App. 3d 650, 653 (1976).

California 6th Dist.: None.


United States Court of Appeal for the 9th Circuit:  Mason and Dixon Intermodal, Inc. v. Lapmaster Int’l LLC, 632 F.3d 1056, 1064 (9th Cir. 2011).

Central District: Kirschner v. Blixseth, No. CV 11-08283 GAF (SPx), 2012 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 183275, at *87-88 (C.D. Cal. Nov. 1, 2012).

Eastern District: United States v. Lyon, No. CV F 07-0491 LJO GSA, 2007 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 94329, at *22 (E.D. Cal. 2007).

Northern District: Sullins v. Exxon/Mobil Corp., 729 F. Supp. 2d 1129, 1138 (N.D. Cal. 2010).

Southern District:  Michell v. United States, No. 09cv0387 BTM(JMA), 2011 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 99942, at *7-8 (S.D. Cal. Sept. 6, 2011).

2 Defenses to Claim for Contribution

(1)   Cal. Code Civ. Proc. § 431.30(b)(2) (pleading affirmative defenses), and other standard defenses.  See Chapter 1 for all defenses.

(2)   Statute of Limitations: Cal. Code Civ. Proc. § 339 (two years); American States Ins. Co. v. National Fire Ins. Co. of Hartford, 202 Cal. App. 4th 692, 699 (2011).  “[A] tort defendant’s action for contribution accrues for statute of limitations purposes when he has paid out more than his share of the damages, and not when the plaintiff’s tort injury occurs.”  People ex rel. Dept. of Transportation v. Superior Court, 26 Cal. 3d 744, 757 (1980) (superseded on other grounds).

(3)   Intentional Injury: There is no right of contribution where the plaintiff to a contribution action intentionally injured the victim of the underlying tort action.  Cal. Code Civ. Proc. § 875(d); Res-Care Inc. v. Roto-Rooter Servs. Co., 753 F. Supp. 2d 970, 978 (N.D. Cal. 2010).

(4)   Contribution limited to Excess Over Pro-Rata Share:  “Such right of contribution may be enforced only after one tortfeasor has, by payment, discharged the joint judgment or has paid more than his pro rata share thereof. It shall be limited to the excess so paid over the pro rata share of the person so paying and in no event shall any tortfeasor be compelled to make contribution beyond his own pro rata share of the entire judgment.”   Cal. Code Civ. Proc. § 875(c).

(5)   Indemnity distinguished: Indemnity imposes the whole share of recovery on one of the multiple defendants, or apportions it on the basis of comparative fault.  Contribution distributes the recovery equally among all tortfeasors.  Western Steamship Lines, Inc. v. San Pedro Peninsula Hosp., 8 Cal. 4th 100, 108 (1994).  Section 875 specifically provides that it “shall not impair any right of indemnity under existing law, and where one tortfeasor judgment debtor is entitled to indemnity from another there shall be no right of contribution between them.”  Cal. Code Civ. Proc. § 875(f).

(6)   Indemnity: Indemnity subordinates the right to contribution, and a defendant cannot recover under both procedures, but “[t]he statute prohibits contribution only if a right to indemnity has been established.”  Coca-Cola Bottling Co. v. Lucky Stores, Inc., 11 Cal. App. 4th 1372, 1379 (1992).

(7) No relationship required: Although an action for contribution often involves parties with a contractual or business relationship, it is not a statutory or judicially created requirement.  Sullins v. Exxon/Mobil Corp., 729 F. Supp. 2d 1129, 1139 (N.D. Cal. 2010).