The Voice of Business, Industry & the Professions Since 1942
North Carolina's largest business group proudly serves as the state chamber of commerce

Joint And Several Liability

Position:  NCCBI supports a change in our civil justice system to eliminate joint and several liability so that a defendant in a civil action is held financially liable for only that portion of the plaintiff's damages actually caused by that defendant's conduct.

Explanation: Under our current civil justice system, when the negligent acts of two or more defendants combine to cause injury to another person, any of the defendants can be required to pay the entire amount of the plaintiff's damages. This is true no matter how slight that individual defendant's negligence may have been. Such a system encourages litigation, rewards a plaintiff's attorney for taking a "shotgun" approach to filing suit, firing lawsuits in every direction instead of focusing on the defendant truly at fault, and discourages reasonable settlements of tort actions as the plaintiffs attorney pursues the target defendant with the "deep pocket."

For example, assume a situation in which a person in a store buys something, then runs from the store out to his car, knocking over a little old lady and severely injuring her. The lady sues the patron for negligence in running through the store and also sues the store for failing to have a sign posted warning patrons against running in the store. If the jury finds that conduct on the part of the store to be negligent, however slight, the store could be required to pay the entire amount of the money judgment awarded by the jury to the lady.

NCCBI supports legislation that would eliminate joint and several liability by limiting a defendant's liability in a civil action to its pro rata share of plaintiff's damages, depending, upon the number of defendants in the case.

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