Law of Torts

Joint Liability

Joint tort or Joint Liability is a very unique concept. This concept is quite complex and is often subject to unclarity. Nobody is aware of what exactly a Joint liability is. There is no comprehensive general rule which can harmonize all the authorities. A few tests of jointness are there. Like, the identity of a cause of action against each of two or more defendants, the existence of a common duty, etc. ‘Joint Tort’ means different for different courts. Hence, its meaning depends upon the case only.

Joint Liability

What is Joint Liability?

Joint liability means that there is more than one defendant for the plaintiff’s injury or damage. In joint tort, each defendant is fully responsible for the entire number of damages. For example, a doctor and nurse being jointly liable for a patient’s wrong medical treatment.

If the first defendant is unable to compensate or dies, the other party has to pay the whole amount of damages. If one party pays the full amount, the plaintiff cannot sue the other party for the amount. Otherwise, it will become the case of double compensation to the plaintiff.

What is Several Liability?

‘Several liability’ is the case when more than one defendants are individually liable for the damage to the plaintiff. For example, If there are 3 doctors and each of them is individually liable for the damage then they will share some percentage of liability. Sometimes, it becomes more difficult to calculate the liability and may require expert advice or help.

Learn Vicarious Liability here in detail. 

Relation between Joint and Several Liability

“Joint and several liability” happens in cases when the plaintiff sues the defendants as a whole.

However, the difference between the two is that the defendants have to decide the ratio os 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.

How will the Liability be determined?

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.

Consequence of Joint Tort

Joinder of defendants in the same action

There are several cases when a party is not a part of the malpractice at the initial stage. The new person joins the course of action in the later stage. But the court is as strict as in case of other defendants. He will also be held equally or proportionately liable for his event even though he has joined the group in the later stages.

Question on Joint Liability

Question:  Explain the consequence ‘Liability for the whole damages’ as a consequence of a Joint tort.

Answer: Earlier whenever there used to be a case of Joint tort, there used to be a proportionate compensation of damages between the different defendants. But with the evolution of law, the courts have set a uniform rule for such cases which states that the defendant for the original act will be held responsible for the whole damages.

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