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A comprehensive legal term that describes the condition of being actually or potentially subject to a legal obligation.

Joint liability is an obligation for which more than one person is responsible.

Joint and several liability refers to the status of those who are responsible together as one unit as well as individually for their conduct. The person who has been harmed can institute a lawsuit and recover from any or all of the wrongdoers—but cannot receive double compensation, for instance, the full amount of recovery from each of two wrongdoers.

Primary liability is an obligation for which a person is directly responsible; it is distinguished from secondary liability which is the responsibility of another if the party directly responsible fails or refuses to satisfy his or her obligation.


n. one of the most significant words in the field of law, liability means legal responsibility for one's acts or omissions. Failure of a person or entity to meet that responsibility leaves him/her/it open to a lawsuit for any resulting damages or a court order to perform (as in a breach of contract or violation of statute). In order to win a lawsuit the suing party (plaintiff) must prove the legal liability of the defendant if the plaintiff's allegations are shown to be true. This requires evidence of the duty to act, the failure to fulfill that duty, and the connection (proximate cause) of that failure to some injury or harm to the plaintiff. Liability also applies to alleged criminal acts in which the defendant may be responsible for his/her acts which constitute a crime, thus making him/her subject to conviction and punishment. Example: Jack Jumpstart runs a stop sign in his car and hits Sarah Stepforth as she is crossing in the cross-walk. Jack has a duty of care to Sarah (and the public) which he breaches by his negligence, and therefore has liability for Sarah's injuries, and gives her the right to bring a lawsuit against him. However, Jack's father owns the automobile and he, too, may have liability to Sarah based on a statute which makes a car owner liable for any damages caused by the vehicle he owns. The father's responsibility is based on "statutory liability" even though he personally breached no duty. A signer of promissory note has liability for money due if it is not paid, and so would a co-signer who guarantees it. A contractor who has agreed to complete a building has liability to the owner if he fails to complete on time. (See: negligence, contract, joint liability)


noun accountability, accountableness, amenability, amenableness, answerability, aptness, bounden duty, burden, contract obligation, debit, debt, drawback, due, duty, duty to pay, encumbrance, handicap, hindrance, indebtedness, legal obligation, legal responsibility, obligation, onus, proclivity, proneness, unliquidated claim, vulnerability
Associated concepts: absolute liability, admission of liability, civil liability, contingent liability, criminal liability, denial of liability, existing liability, fixed liability, incurring a liability, joint liability, known liability, legal liability, liability imposed by law, liability insurance, liability without fault, limited liaaility, manufacturer's liability, original liability, pecuniary liibility, potential liability, primary liability, secondary liabillty, several liability, statutory liability, strict liability, tort liability
Foreign phrases: Quando de una et eadem re duo oneraailes existunt, unus pro insufficientia alterius, de inteero, onerabitur.When two persons are chargeable with one and the same thing, one of them is chargeable with the whole thing, upon the failure of the other.
See also: accountability, arrears, attornment, blame, burden, chance, characteristic, charge, cloud, debit, debt, delinquency, detriment, disadvantage, drawback, due, duty, encumbrance, excise, fault, fine, impairment, impeachability, incumbrance, lien, obligation, penalty, possibility, probability, responsibility, weight

LIABILITY. Responsibility; the state of one who is bound in law and justice to do something which may be enforced by action. This liability may arise from contracts either express or implied, or in consequence of torts committed.
     2. The liabilities of one man are not in general transferred to his representative's further than to reach the estate in his hands. For example, an executor is not responsible for the liabilities of his testator further than the estate of the testator which has come to his hands. See Hamm. on Part. 169, 170.
     3. The husband is liable for his wife's contracts made dum sola, and for those made during coverture for necessaries, and for torts committed either while she was sole or since her marriage with him; but this liability continues only during the coverture; as to her torts, or even her contracts made before marriage; for the latter, however, she may be sued as her executor or administrator, when she assumes that character.
     4. A master is liable for the acts of his servant while in his employ, performed in the usual course of his business, upon the presumption that they have been authorized by him; but he is responsible only in a civil point of view and not criminally, unless the acts have been actually authorized by him. See Bouv. Inst. Index, h.t.; Driver; Quasi Offence; Servant.