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Definition of Joint And Several Liability

Joint and Several liability allows for two or more parties to be "jointly and severally liable for a tortious act." This process allows for the plaintiff to collect the full damages from an injury case from any of the parties involved. Inequities with this system exist when relatively blameless defendants are required to pay the financial burdens if one of the other defendants is insolvent.

What is an example of joint and several liability? If there are three business partners who have entered into a contract for which there is joint and several liability and the contract is subsequently breached, one of them may be sued and may end up paying all damages. It is then that partner's responsibility to pursue the other partners for their share of the liability.

Critics of this system argue joint and several liability encourages plaintiffs to unfairly target defendants who are known or perceived to be insured or solvent, and these solvent defendants may be forced to fully compensate a plaintiff far beyond that which is owed by them in the event of a co-defendant's insolvency. Critics are also concerned about the rising costs of litigation, insurance and damage awards which are allowed under the joint and several liability system.

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