YOU ASK:

What is joint and several liability?

WE ANSWER:

A considerable percentage of the liability lawsuits have multiple defendants. Very often it is difficult to apportion the financial liability between all the defendants in a liability case, and decide who has to pay the damages. To tackle the difficulties involved in distributing liability, each state has introduced different legislation, with defendants in certain states having either joint liability, several liability, or joint and several liability.

When a state has introduced a joint liability system, each of the defendants is responsible for paying the damages in a liability lawsuit, up to the total amount. If, for instance, two business partners are determined jointly liable, and one of the partners dies or cannot pay the damages, the other partner will be responsible for covering all the damages.

Several liability, on the other hand, means that each defendant is responsible for paying their own share of the damages, determined according to fault.

Many states have modified joint and several liability restricting its application, as a contribution to the tort reform going on in the country (see Table 1 below).

State Liability Type
Alabama Pure joint and several liability
Alaska Pure several liability
Arizona Pure several liability
Arkansas Pure several liability
California Modified joint and several liability
Colorado Modified joint and several liability
Connecticut    Pure several liability
Delaware Pure joint and several liability
Florida Pure several liability
Georgia Pure several liability
Hawaii Modified joint and several liability
Idaho Modified joint and several liability
Illinois Modified joint and several liability
Indiana Pure several liability
Iowa    Modified joint and several liability
Kansas Pure several liability
Kentucky Pure several liability
Louisiana Modified joint and several liability
Maine Modified joint and several liability
Maryland Pure joint and several liability
Massachusetts Pure joint and several liability
Michigan Pure several liability
Minnesota Modified joint and several liability
Mississippi Modified joint and several liability
Missouri Modified joint and several liability
Montana Modified joint and several liability
Nebraska Modified joint and several liability
Nevada Modified joint and several liability
New Hampshire Modified joint and several liability
New Jersey Modified joint and several liability
New Mexico Modified joint and several liability
New York Modified joint and several liability
North Carolina Pure joint and several liability
North Dakota Modified joint and several liability
Ohio Modified joint and several liability
Oklahoma Modified joint and several liability
Oregon Modified joint and several liability
Pennsylvania Modified joint and several liability
Rhode Island Pure joint and several liability
South Carolina Pure joint and several liability
South Dakota Modified joint and several liability
Tennessee Pure several liability
Texas Modified joint and several liability
Utah Pure several liability
Vermont Pure several liability
Virginia Pure joint and several liability
Washington Modified joint and several liability
West Virginia Modified joint and several liability
Wisconsin Modified joint and several liability
Wyoming Pure several liability

Table 1. Joint and Several Liability by State

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