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§5.05 Tort Law—Joint and Several Liability

Lesson 5: Tort & Contract Law

When there are joint tortfeasors, judgment for the full amount is rendered against each, which allows a plaintiff to collect the total judgment from one of the defendants even though other defendants contributed to the injury. Because ascertaining the damage caused by each tortfeasor can be difficult, the burden of proof may be placed on the defendants to show their limited responsibility for a specified portion of the damage, or they may be liable for the whole amount. [Summers v Tice (1948) 33 C2d 80.]

The rule of joint and several liability only applies to economic damages. Economic damages are objectively verifiable monetary losses, including medical expenses, loss of earnings, burial costs, loss of use of property, costs or repair or replacement, costs of obtaining substitute domestic services, loss of employment, and loss of business or employment opportunity. [CC §1431.2(b)(1).] Noneconomic damages are subjective, nonmonetary losses, including, but not limited to, pain and suffering, emotional distress, and injury to reputation and humiliation. [CC §1431.2(b)(2).] Liability for noneconomic damages is several, meaning liability is restricted to the percentage of fault allocated to that defendant. [CC §1431.2(a).]

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