Joint and Several Liability

Jump to Section

Need help with a Contract Agreement?

CREATE A FREE PROJECT POSTING
Post Project Now

Joint and Several Liability Meaning

Joint and several liability is a legal term defining shared responsibility of 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 can be sued independently, and will be independently liable for the injuries from the act as per common law.

How Joint and Several Liability Works

Joint and several liability makes all parties in a suit legally responsible for damages. In case one party is unable to pay, other parties will have to pay more to make up for it. Sometimes, the portion of damages paid can also depend on the parties’ direct involvement or fault in causing the damage.

Often joint and several liability is used in cases involving toxic torts claims. These cases, such as asbestos-related issues, have claims about asbestos exposure which might have occurred at multiple job sites. As a result, it is difficult to determine which exact site led to the damage. Here, joint and several liability would be used to consider all sites liable, instead of looking for an individual tortfeasor.

There are advantages and disadvantages of joint and several liability. Here are a few advantages:

  • Joint and several liability is based on the theory that the defendants are sufficient to decide the share of liability or pay damages to the plaintiff, within themselves. The plaintiff doesn’t need to be involved in litigation once liability has been established internally by the defendants.
  • Plaintiff has a higher chance of recovering damages as a financially wealthy party can often make up for the lack of funds of other joint parties.

However, joint and several liability also has a few disadvantages:

  • Often parties that have nothing to do with the tort would face some financial liability. If the entire group is held liable and one member of the group does not make payments, the entire group would need to pay more that their original share to avoid defaulting.
  • Due to joint contribution for damages, reasonable division of damages is often not possible.
  • One party with more financial resources might have to pay a lot more even if their contribution to the tort was negligible.

Here is an article where you can read more on advantages and disadvantages of joint and several liability.

Meet some lawyers on our platform

Michael B.

2 projects on CC
View Profile

Richard N.

32 projects on CC
View Profile

Melissa G.

1 project on CC
View Profile

Matthew S.

1 project on CC
View Profile

Difference Between Joint Liability and Several Liability

There is a basic difference between joint liability and several liability. The term joint liability refers to the share of liability assigned to two or more parties involved in a business. Several liability refers to a situation when all parties are liable for their respective contribution to the tortious act.

Another variation of joint liability is the joint and several liability. A joint and several liability allows the defendants to decide share of liability and payments. If a loan company sues partners of a business, the partners can collect their debt share and decide responsibility between them.

For instance, in a joint liability if two doctors are being sued for mistreatment of a patient, and one of the doctors dies, the other will be liable for the whole amount of damages. In contrast, in a several liability, if multiple partners take out a loan and one partner dies, all partners will only be liable for their share of loans.

There are many other varieties of joint and several liability. Here are a few varieties:

  • Market share liability: This variety or doctrine of joint and several liability is used when there are multiple producers of a good in the market. If the court is unable to determine which manufacturer created the good that causes the harm, then this can be invoked to hold manufactures proportionately liable based on their market share. This was ruled in the case of Sindell v. Abbott Laboratories (1980).
  • Alternative liability : This doctrine was established in the case of Summers v Tice (1948). In this case, the court decided that two independent parties can be held liable for the entirety of plaintiff’s injuries if it is impossible to determine which party caused the injuries. This also shifted the burden of proof on the defendants to release themselves from any liability.
  • Preempted causes or doomed plaintiffs : This doctrine was introduced in the case of Dillon v. Twin State Gas & Electric Co (1932). This was a unique case where a boy who fell from a bridge tried to grab a wire to stop the fall and the wire electrocuted and killed him. The court found that since it was reasonable to believe that the boy would have died any way from the fall, the electric wire company would not be held liable for death. However, they were held liable for the additional suffering caused by electrocution.

You can read more on differences between joint and several liability.

Examples of Joint and Several Liability

Joint and several liability is followed in some states. There are multiple different types of cases where this can apply. The most common ones are personal injury cases. For instance, in Alabama and Delaware, in a multi-vehicle car accident, the plaintiff could win a monetary award of $100,000 against other joint and severally liable partners. If there are four partners and each one was assigned 25% of fault by the court, the plaintiff can try and collect the full amount from one of the individuals and then seek contributions from others. In other states that follow a doctrine of pure several liability, the person is only liable for their proportional fault.

For instance, in a case individual A has to pay $8 million (80% of $10 million) and individual B has to pay $2 million (20% of $10 million). If individual A doesn’t have any money and is uninsured, the plaintiff will only recover amount paid by individual B. If in another scenario, the state follows joint liability doctrine, plaintiff can recover full damages from any of the defendants.

In microfinance, money lenders often loan money to a group of poor and each group member is jointly liable. This means that the individual is responsible for the entire group’s repayment. If one group-member does not pay, the entire group will be held liable.

Get Help with a Joint and Several Liability

Do you have any questions about joint and several liability and want to speak to an expert? Post a project today on ContractsCounsel and receive bids from dispute lawyers who specialize in joint and several liability, breach of contract and contract law.

How ContractsCounsel Works
Hiring a lawyer on ContractsCounsel is easy, transparent and affordable.
1. Post a Free Project
Complete our 4-step process to provide info on what you need done.
2. Get Bids to Review
Receive flat-fee bids from lawyers in our marketplace to compare.
3. Start Your Project
Securely pay to start working with the lawyer you select.

Meet some of our Lawyers

ContractsCounsel verified
Attorney
11 years practicing
Free Consultation

Jaclyn is an experienced intellectual property and transactional attorney residing and working in NYC, and serving clients throughout the United States and internationally. She brings a targeted breadth of knowledge in intellectual property law, having years of experience working within the media, theater, PR and communications industries, and having represented clients in the music, entertainment, fashion, event production, digital media, tech, food/beverage, consumer goods, and beauty industries. She is an expert in trademark, copyright, and complex media and entertainment law matters. Jaclyn also taught as an Adjunct Professor at Cardozo School of Law, having developed and instructed the school’s first Trademark Practicum course for international students. In her spare time, Jaclyn’s passion for theater and love for NYC keeps her exploring the boundless creativity in the world’s greatest city!

ContractsCounsel verified
Principal
2 years practicing
Free Consultation

A bilingual attorney graduated from J.D. with a C.P.A. license, an M.B.A. degree, and nearly ten years of experience in the cross-border tax field.

ContractsCounsel verified
Lawyer
13 years practicing
Free Consultation

Experienced and business-oriented attorney with a great depth of contract experience including vendor contracts, service contracts, employment, licenses, operating agreements and other corporate compliance documents.

ContractsCounsel verified
Attorney
23 years practicing
Free Consultation

With over 21 years of practice, Chet uses his vast experiences to assist his clients in the most efficient manner possible. Chet is a magna cum laude graduate of University of Miami School of Law with an extensive background in Business Law, Commercial Real Estate, Corporate Law, Leasing Law and Telecommunications Law. Chet's prior experience includes 5 years at two of the top law firms in Georgia and 16 years of operating his own private practice.

ContractsCounsel verified
Managing Partner
40 years practicing
Free Consultation

Steve Clark has been practicing law in DFW since 1980. He is licensed in both Texas and Louisiana state and federal courts. He concentrates his practice on business clients and their needs. He has been a SuperLawyer in Texas since 2011, and is Lead Counsel rated in Business Law. He is also a Bet the Company litigator in Texas.

ContractsCounsel verified
attorney
12 years practicing
Free Consultation

I am a top-performing bi-lingual legal services professional with a proven record of success. Reputation of assessing and evaluating client’s needs and providing individualized solutions in line with those needs while efficiently handling multiple tasks simultaneously. Able to create a collaborative work environment ensuring business objectives are consistently met. Seeking an attorney role within a legal setting to apply skills in critical thinking, executive communications, and client advocacy.

ContractsCounsel verified
Managing Partner
11 years practicing
Free Consultation

I run a small law firm in Pasadena, CA. I have been practicing for almost 10 years and the other attorneys at my firm each have 12+ years of experience. We focus on business and employment law, protecting and defending business owners. While my clients are all sizes, I particularly enjoy helping smaller companies and individuals manage their legal needs without the high price tag.

ContractsCounsel verified
Principal
40 years practicing
Free Consultation

I have over 25 years' experience representing individual and company clients, large and small, in transactions such as mergers and acquisitions, private offerings of securities, commercial loans and commercial endeavors (supply contracts, manufacturing agreements, joint ventures, intellectual property licenses, etc.). My particular specialty is in complex and novel drafting.

ContractsCounsel verified
Litigation Attorney
5 years practicing
Free Consultation

I assist individuals and businesses across the state of Florida with contract drafting, contract interpretation, and issues that may arise because of contract terms, including demands (cease-and-desist letters) and litigation. I have experience with general service contracts, non-compete agreements, settlement agreements, and many other contracts. Please reach out if I can help you with a contract-related project!

ContractsCounsel verified
Attorney
5 years practicing
Free Consultation

Brianna is a well-respected attorney with a juris doctorate degree in law from Touro College Jacob D. Fuchsberg Law School and bachelor’s degree in Business Administration and Management from Dowling College. Since becoming an attorney, she has practiced in various areas including business law, real estate, employment law, estate planning, and more. Brianna has very broad and extensive business experience; She is an entrepreneur and co-owner of a manufacturing company that was built by her and her partner, where she also served as the Chief Legal Officer/General Counsel and Human Resource Manager for the company. She has been involved in business for over 15 years, thus she offers a very unique skillset to her clients; not only does she understand contractual principals and obligations from a legal perspective while drafting and negotiating agreements, but she also has the foresight and ability to ensure the agreement reflects the practical aspects of the business. Based on the client’s needs and desired outcome, she has the forethought to cover different angles that would be overlooked from a legal standpoint but be of consequence in business. She conducts risk assessments and minimizes client’s risk and exposure to potential liability. Additionally, she specializes in drafting and negotiating agreements. Negotiating is a passion of hers; in law school, she was a member of the Alternative Dispute Resolution Society and won the intraschool negotiation competition. Brianna believes in quality over quantity. She treats every client as a top priority; thus she will not take on many cases at a time because she wants to give each client the focus and attention they deserve. She has sharp attention to detail and is a forceful advocate for every client.

ContractsCounsel verified
Outside General Counsel / Business Attorney
34 years practicing
Free Consultation

Experienced and broad based corporate/business attorney and Outside General Counsel (OGC), for start-ups, small businesses and growing companies of all sizes, advising and assisting clients with corporate and LLC formation, contracts and agreements, internet and terms of use/service agreements, trademarks and intellectual property protection, the purchase and sale of businesses (M&A), labor and employment matters, compliance and risk management, corporate governance, and commercial leasing matters. See other reviews on my website at www.ogcservices.net/reviews

Find the best lawyer for your project

Browse Lawyers Now

Want to speak to someone?

Get in touch below and we will schedule a time to connect!

Request a call