Law Commission recommends joint and several liability be retained

Publication Date 
24 June 2014

In their report Liability of Multiple Defendants (R132, 2014), which was tabled in the House of Representatives today, the Law Commission recommends that the existing rule of “joint and several liability” be retained, with some modifications.
 
Joint and several liability provides that where two or more persons (defendants) are liable to a person they have harmed (claimant) for the same harm or loss, they are each individually liable for all the damages awarded for the loss.
 
The President of the Law Commission, Hon Sir Grant Hammond, comments:
 
“There are a number of alternatives to joint and several liability, and our review investigated them all, in detail. We concluded that none was sounder in principle, or more likely to produce better policy outcomes. For example, proportionate liability can deliver cost benefits to defendants, in some cases. But this could only be done by putting claimants at much greater risk of not achieving effective compensation. Joint and several liability’s emphasis on achieving compensation for wrongs makes it still clearly the best system.”
 
The Report recommends that joint and several liability remain the normal rule to govern the liability of multiple defendants for the same damage, but with several modifications to achieve better fairness in more extreme or unusual circumstances or for some classes of defendants.