In most common law legal systems where two or more persons are liable in respect of the same offence, they may either be jointly liable or severally liable.

If parties have joint liability, then they are each liable up to the full amount of the relevant obligation. So for instance if a married couple takes a loan from a bank and that loan agreement will normally provide that they are to be “jointly liable” for the full amount. Thus, if one party dies or disappears or is declared bankrupt, the other remains fully liable to repay the loan amount to the bank.


Another liability is the several or proportionate liability. In this the parties are liable for only their respective obligations. Hence, the wrongdoer is only penalized for the wrong or offence committed by him. Hence, the suit can be filed only against the wrongdoer and the liability vests on a single person.

Joint and several liability is premised on the theory that the defendants are in the best position to apportion damages amongst themselves. Once liability has been established and damages awarded, the defendants are free to litigate amongst themselves to better divide liability. The plaintiff no longer needs to be involved in the litigation and can avoid the cost of continuing litigation.

Hence, the liabilities for wrongs done needs to be categorized and the wrongdoer(s) needs to be penalized in accordance with their established liabilities.

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Post Contributed By:
Souradeep Rakshit
Asst. Prof. of Law
IILS, Dagapur



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