What is Joint and Several Liability?

True Tamplin

Written by True Tamplin, BSc, CEPF®
Updated on January 11, 2021

Joint and Several Liability Definition

Joint and several liability refers to an event in which multiple parties can be held responsible for an event or act and be jointly responsible for paying all required restitutions. 

The parties held liable would be required to pay the entirety of the damages, whether that be from one of the responsible parties or split among some or all.

The Purpose of Joint and Several Liability

The purpose of joint and several liability is that it favors the plaintiff by allowing them to seek restitution from the party with the deepest pockets. 

It is different from comparative fault, in which the party deemed the most guilty would be required to pay the most restitution. 

In comparative fault, if the guiltiest party is not very financially solvent, then the plaintiff may have a difficult time getting the money they are owed. 

In a joint and several liability, that problem is greatly reduced.

Joint and Several Liability Example

To see how joint and several liability can be applied, consider a factory worker or workers who become ill after using a piece of machinery. 

The manufacturer may be held liable if the machine they made releases toxic fumes that poison their workers; however, if an inspector reviews the machine and gives it a pass, then the inspector may be held liable as well. 

What is Joint and Several Liability FAQs

Joint and several liability refers to an event in which multiple parties can be held responsible for an event or act and be jointly responsible for paying all required restitutions.
The purpose of joint and several liability is that it favors the plaintiff by allowing them to seek restitution from the party with the deepest pockets.
The parties held liable would be required to pay the entirety of the damages, whether that be from one of the responsible parties or split among some or all.
To see how joint and several liability can be applied, consider a factory worker or workers who become ill after using a piece of machinery. The manufacturer may be held liable if the machine they made releases toxic fumes that poison their workers; however, if an inspector reviews the machine and gives it a pass, then the inspector may be held liable as well.