Joint liability, several liability and joint & several liability are the concepts which are used by the court in the cases where there are more than two parties to a contract. It can be defined as when two or more entities or persons are alleged to be liable to another person. Either due to breach of contract or due to a tortious wrong such as assault or negligence, then there the doctrine of joint and several liability can come into play. According to joint and several liability, it means that each defendant is liable to the plaintiff for the entire claim.
Joint liability means that there is more than one defendant liable for the injury of the plaintiff’s. In joint liability, each defendant is fully liable for the total amount of damages.
Several liability is when multiple defendants are each held liable individually for the damages caused by them.
“Joint & several liability” arises when the defendant is sued by the plaintiff as a whole for the damages.
The difference here is that in such cases the defendants themselves are left to determine how much each individual is responsible for the damages.
However, the difference between the two is that the defendants have to decide the ratio is responsibilities of different defendants. For example, if the doctors believe that only one is responsible, then that particular doctor will be liable for the damages. But, if that doctor refuses the claim, then he can file a lawsuit against the other doctors to distribute the compensation amount.
In Tort cases, defendants are held jointly and severally liable if the concurrent acts of the defendants cause damage to the plaintiff. For the imposition of such type of liability, each wrongful act must contribute to the damage.
There are various approaches to determine liability. This will entirely depend on the type of injury.
- In the case of automobile accidents, the physical evidence of the vehicle is a prime factor.
- In the case of medical malpractices, the medical records and doctor’s testimony can prove to be a major point of the analysis.
Tortious liability is still an evolving branch in India, though of paramount importance. With the ever-increasing cases of medical negligence and motor vehicle accidents, imparting legal literacy amongst the masses is of utmost importance to create educated citizenry. The nuances of joint liability and joint and several liability can often be eluding, henceforth coming up with dedicated and comprehensive literature on this topic is the need of the hour.
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