Attorney at Law

Joint and Several Liability

Lia Kopin-Green
December 27, 2022

What is Joint and Several Liability?

Joint and several liability is a legal term that refers to the responsibility shared by two or more parties in a lawsuit. If two or more parties are jointly and severally liable for a harmful act, each one of them may be sued individually and held independently responsible for the damages caused by the act. In other words, in cases of joint and several liability, each party may be held accountable for the full extent of damages or losses, regardless of the fault or involvement of the other parties.

Key Takeaways

  • Joint and several liability is a legal concept in which two or more parties share responsibility in a lawsuit.
  • According to this principle, each party may be held liable for the full amount of damages.
  • If one party is unable to pay, the others named in the lawsuit must pay more than their share.

Example of a Joint and Several Liability Suit

Joint and several liability cases are common in personal injury cases. For example, suppose that a person slipped and fell in the parking lot of their workplace. His or her employer may be held liable for the injuries that the person sustained in the accident. However, throughout the legal proceedings, the company claimed that they had hired a cleaning service to handle the upkeep of their parking lot. In this case, if it is discovered that the cleaning company had not been properly performing its duties, the cleaning service may also be held legally responsible for the person’s injury. As a result, both the owner of the company itself and the cleaning company would be jointly and severally liable for the person’s injuries sustained in his or her fall in the parking lot. 

Advantages and Disadvantages of Joint and Several Liability

Joint and several liability can have both advantages and disadvantages, depending on the context in which it is being applied. Here are a few instances in which joint and several liability can be beneficial:

  • It tends to benefit the plaintiff, since it increases the chances that all of his or her damages awarded can be collected.
  • It can deter potential defendants from engaging in negligent behavior.
  • The plaintiff does not need to be involved in litigation once liability has been internally decided by the defendants.

On the other hand, it is important to keep in mind that joint and several liability has its downsides, such as:

  • It may be considered unfair and unproportionate for a party to bear a financial loss due to their minor contribution in an accident or injury.
  • It can lead to conflict between defendants over the amount of damages that each party should pay.
  • If one defendant is unable to make payments, the responsibility lies on the other parties even if they already contributed their share of damages.

Bottom Line

In summary, joint and several liability is an essential concept with significant implications on a number of legal situations. Nonetheless, the doctrine has been highly criticized as it can lead to unproportionate results. Therefore, it is crucial to ensure that joint and several liability cases are handled extremely carefully. If you are in need of any assistance regarding joint and several liability, contact one of our specialized business attorneys today.

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