Core principle of joint and several liability rule to be retained

  • Amy Adams

Justice Minister Amy Adams says the core principle of the joint and several liability rule is sound and will remain in place, but further work will consider the need for any targeted amendments.

Ms Adams has today tabled in Parliament the Government Response to the Law Commission Report entitled Liability of Multiple Defendants, which looks at how liability is distributed among multiple defendants in civil cases who are found to have caused the same damage.

“After close consideration, the Government agrees with the Law Commission’s main recommendation to retain the current rule of joint and several liability across the legal system, including for the building sector and professional services markets,” says Ms Adams.

“Joint and several liability provides the best assurance that the plaintiff will be compensated for their loss. The rule means that when multiple defendants are found to have caused the same damage, each defendant can be obliged to pay up to the full amount of the loss suffered. Under a different liability regime, if there is an absent defendant, the blameless plaintiff could be out of pocket.” 

The Law Commission report did however recommend adjusting the way the principle of joint and several liability is applied in some instances, noting concerns about fairness between defendants.

Ministers have agreed that further analysis of these issues, including their regulatory impact, is required.

Further work will now therefore commence to consider the recommendations regarding relief for a minor defendant, supplementary contributions, the building sector and liability caps for auditors.

“The Government will now seek a careful analysis of the changes recommended by the Law Commission, prior to deciding if any law changes are required,” says Ms Adams.

The Government has directed officials to further analyse the value and potential impact of the Law Commission’s recommended changes, and to report back to Ministers by the end of 2015.