Joint and several liability are when multiple parties can be held liable for the same event or act and be responsible for all restitution required. In cases of joint and several liability, a person who was harmed or wronged by several parties could be awarded damages and collect from any one, several, or all of the liable parties.
The liable parties would be required to pay the entire damage award, which could be split among multiple parties or could come from just one party. Each party would be liable for part of the damages, or up to as much as all of the damages.
Breaking Down Joint and Several Liability
Joint and several liability favors the plaintiff suing for damages because it enables him or her to seek payment from the party or parties with the deepest pockets.
Joint and several liability differs from comparative fault, where the multiple parties would be assigned responsibility for a portion of the damages in relation to the percentage of fault that they bore for the harm.
In a comparative fault, if the greatest percentage of harm comes from the least financially solvent liable party, this might leave the plaintiff in the position of seeking damages from an insolvent party.
If the plaintiff seeks damages from just one party, that party could look to the other defendants to contribute to the payment.
How Joint and Several Liability Might Be Applied
A joint and several liability case could be launched on behalf of workers who became ill after working at multiple job sites and were exposed to harmful materials at each location.
This could be the case for workers who are exposed to certain construction materials such as asbestos at various work sites where inadequate precautions are cited. The workers could suffer physical ailments with a single cause hard to pinpoint.
The complexities of sorting out who should bear the responsibility for the exposure to those materials are extensive. It must be proven that the defendants were concurrently liable for the injury and harm the plaintiff is seeking damages for. The defendants’ actions do not have to be simultaneous.
For example, a manufacturer might construct a piece of machinery with a fault in its assembly that can cause harm to the user through regular usage. That machinery is later inspected and approved by a designated inspector, but then the user of the machinery is harmed in the standard operation of that equipment. In such a case, the manufacturer and the inspector might both be named as defendants through joint and several liability even though their actions were not simultaneous.