Legal Types of Liability

Legal Terms
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Legal liability is the duty for an individual or company to perform a designated act or duty as a result of a particular law or contract. The definition of legal liability is somewhat broad and applies to several types of liabilities, all of which offer legal recourse for failure to perform.

Strict Liability

Strict liability, sometimes referred to as absolute liability, is primarily found in cases of defective products or services. Examples of strict liability include the manufacture of vehicles that contain an accidental structural flaw that causes crashes; the manufacturing of food products that have become tainted, resulting in illness; or components in certain medications that later are shown to pose health hazards and lead to illness or death. In most cases of strict liability, it is not necessary to show that the provider of the product or service acted with disregard or even negligence. It must only be shown that the product caused the harm at issue.

Strict liability also applies in criminal law. Serving alcohol to minors, for example, is a strict liability crime in many states. That means that a person who serves a minor is liable even if the minor lied about his age or presented a fake ID.

Vicarious Liability

Vicarious liability is when one party is held accountable for the actions of another. Generally, this relates to an employer's responsibility for actions by an employee when someone is injured or property is damaged as a result of an act that occurred during the employee's working hours. A parent may be held vicariously liable for actions committed by his child if another person is injured as a result of the child's actions, but this typically occurs only if the child is under age. For an employer or parent to be held vicariously liable, the victim of the act must have suffered injury or property damage that would not have resulted without the action of the employee or child, regardless of intent.

Joint and Several Liability

Joint and several liability refers to a scenario in which two or more parties are jointly responsible for an event or act that results in damage to another party. In this case, each individual is found to be just as responsible as the other, and they are held accountable for their actions both together and individually. Examples of joint and several liability include a married couple that defaults on a mutual debt, and doctors who practice in the same group, each of which treats a specific patient, but negligently fail to diagnose a serious health issue. For instance, if you and your business partner are sued on a loan and a judgment is entered against both of you for $100,000, jointly and severally, it means that both of you owe $100,000 and the judgment creditor doesn't have to collect from one before collecting from the other.

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