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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.

West's Encyclopedia of American Law, edition 2. Copyright 2008 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.


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)

Copyright © 1981-2005 by Gerald N. Hill and Kathleen T. Hill. All Right reserved.

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.

A Law Dictionary, Adapted to the Constitution and Laws of the United States. By John Bouvier. Published 1856.
References in periodicals archive ?
Members of an alliance should be aware that controlling one another, or permitting an umbrella organization to control members, creates the greatest chance for vicarious liability. In the Parmalat cases, Deloitte International was found to be the principal (and control person) of Deloitte Italy, notwithstanding their legal separateness, because Deloitte International (1) intervened in a conflict between Deloitte Italy and Deloitte Brazil and (2) ultimately removed one of the auditors from the Parmalat audit.
Environmental liability insurance may also cover third-party bodily injury and property damage claims and defense costs arising out of a pollution event.
Under the respective plans, the liability for the year-end compensation must be fixed and the amount must be determined with reasonable accuracy (e.g., a bonus based on a percentage of year-end sales where the sales are known at year-end);
If your organization sponsors a retirement plan, the administrators of that plan are fiduciaries under ERISA and personally exposed to civil liability for breach of their fiduciary duties.
To guide in determining whether a tangible employment action was taken, the Supreme Court described the types of actions that can result in liability as actions that often result in financial harm and require an official act of the employer often carried out by a supervisor who has been given the authority to act for the employer.
(14) It is not surprising that liability often accrues to directors and officers of health care organizations.
TEI agrees conceptually with the proposed clarification that an accrued liability for a potential disallowance of a tax position should be classified as current or non-current based on the period in which the liability is expected to be paid.
The Provider Liability Law is different from the Communications Decency Act in that the TSP is much more involved in the process under the Japan model.
As a result, average damage awards in Argentina run about $87,000, says Herndndez, who has tracked liability actions in the region.
In March, a federal District Court in Northern Indiana held a foundry liable under the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act (CERCLA) for spent foundry sand provided as a fill and cover material.
Directors of the dissolved organization also retain liability for their actions for a similar period and may be sued for their actions as directors during that period.
Cons: General partnerships also carry unlimited liability, which means all members of the partnership are collectively responsible for all of the company's acts and debts.