How are multiple tortfeasors dealt with? Is liability joint and several? Can contribution proceedings be brought?
In cases under tort law, Indian courts recognise the principle of joint and several liability. Under this principle, multiple parties may be held jointly liable in respect of any tortious claim by an affected person in the event that (a) the parties have, acting in concert, committed a wrongful act resulting in loss or damage to the affected person or, (b) when not acting in concert, have, by their individual wrongful acts, caused loss or damage to the affected person. In exceptional cases, courts have apportioned the liability between multiple tortfeasors on the basis of material evidence available on record, indicating the degree of liability of each tortfeasor.
In cases of composite negligence, an aggrieved party is entitled to recover damages from any or all of the negligent tortfeasors. That said, Indian courts have held that a tortfeasor proceeded against has the remedy to sue the other tortfeasors to recover contribution amounts to the extent of their liability. However, such proceedings are not evidenced as much in product liability claims.
If more than one person has inflicted damages on others by their joint tortious acts, each of them shall be jointly and severally liable to compensate for those damages (Article 719 (1) of the Civil Code).
If a tortfeasor has compensated the victim for damages in excess of the portion to be borne by the accident, the tortfeasor may exercise the right to recover contribution against the other tortfeasors with respect to that excess portion. Therefore, if one manufacturer has compensated the victim for the total amount of damages, the person who provided the compensation may recover contribution from the other manufacturers liable, based on the degree of liability. In Japan, there is no specific procedures for contribution.
With respect to the loss caused by more than one person, Article 61 of the Turkish Code of Obligations No. 6098 was amended. If more than one person causes a loss together or if they are liable for the same damage for a variety of reasons, the provisions concerning several responsibilities shall apply. The injured party can apply to any person responsible for the whole damage caused by the joint liability. Tortfeasors are obliged to cover the entire debt and then recourse the joint responsible. The essence of the defect and the danger intensity it creates, are taken into consideration when distributing compensation among the total debtors responsible for the same damage.
In this context, all the tortfeasors and any party who can be asked for recourse can join the case. Notice of the case is possible for the parties in order to manage the recourse process. One several tortfeasor who pay the debt can also recourse to the others in terms of their defects. The responsible party, who has not been notified to the case, has the possibility of rejecting the claims of recourse because it has not been defended at the court.
If it is objectively recognized that the torts of multiple tortfeasors are a common cause of the damage, joint liability may be established. Based on court precedents, “joint” liability has been understood to refer to “joint and several” liability because the scope of liability for damages caused by multiple tortfeasors is determined by evaluating the actions of all tortfeasors in relation to the injured person as a whole, and the tortfeasors cannot put forward a defense in regard to only their respective contribution to the damage, and each tortfeasor is liable for the entire damage.
It is generally accepted that the manufacturer of goods owes a duty of care to the purchaser and user to safeguard them against the foreseeable risks of injury when using the product as intended.
Retailers, importers and distributors are not expected to test or inspect products which the manufacturer delivers in sealed containers which would not normally be opened until they reach the ultimate consumer. However, in these circumstances, the retailer still has a duty to guard against those dangers known to it or which it has reasonable grounds to expect.
To the extent that any party in the supply chain adds to or modifies a product including packaging and labelling, that party will also owe a common law duty to the purchaser and user in respect of those changes.
A plaintiff may commence proceedings against one or more alleged tortfeasors. Liability is joint and several.
In personal injury claims, defendants may still rely on a statutory right to seek contribution from any or all other parties that would have been held liable for the same damage had they been a party to the proceedings.
Any defendant having committed a fault or negligence or having the defective product in his/her custody can be held liable.
Joint and several liability is possible, upon the condition that the joint and several liability be provided for by law or by contract.
As such, the claimant can obtain full compensation for his/her damage(s) from any of the tortfeasors held liable.
If defendants are held jointly and severally liable, a defendant having paid the entire amount can claim from other defendants the proportion of their liability.
Considering the idea that the entire supply chain is liable for the defect, there can surely be more than one tortfeasor. In this case, all of them with be treated equally and will be granted the same rights.
Moreover, the Consumer Protection Code establishes that the suppliers are severally and jointly liable for the defect. It means that the consumer can choose between suing an isolated supplier or all of the suppliers jointly, according to its preference.
The suppliers can file separate defences or a single defence. All the defences’ arguments are valid for all the defendants, if applicable.
Liability can be joint and several i.e. split across multiple tortfeasors. The claimant may enforce the relevant obligation, in full, against any one or more of the jointly liable parties. That defendant can then try to claim a proportion of the damages paid to the claimant from the other defendant by way of contribution proceedings.
Multiple tortfeasors are jointly and severally liable. The injured party may select which tortfeaser(s) shall recover the full amount of damages (so called “external liability”). Internally, the tortfeasor liability depends on the individual share of responsibility and the tortfeasors may have corresponding claims against each other to be fully or partly indemnified and hold harmless from the full external liability.
In Virginia, each tortfeasor is jointly and severally liable to the plaintiff for the full amount of plaintiff’s damages caused by their negligence when involved in a joint enterprise or when the joint tortfeasors’ actions produce a single indivisible injury. See Alban Tractor Co. v. Sheffield, 220 Va. 861, 863 (1980); Dickenson v. Tabb, 208 Va. 184, 192-93 (1967). “Contribution among wrongdoers may be enforced when the wrong results from negligence and involves no moral turpitude.” Va. Code Ann. § 8.01-34. “A person who enters into a release or covenant not to sue with a claimant is not entitled to recover by way of contribution from another person whose liability for the injury, property damage or wrongful death is not extinguished by the release or covenant not to sue, nor in respect to any amount paid by the person which is in excess of what was reasonable.” Va. Code § 8.01-35.1.
With regard to the product liability developed in case law, the claimant may raise its claim against both the manufacturer and the intermediary. They are jointly and severally liable. No secondary liability applies as such. However, the intermediary will be liable for product liability if the claimant can provide evidence of fault on the part of the manufacturer (provided that the other conditions are satisfied, including the existence of a defect which caused the damage/injury, etc.)
Manufacturer(s) and intermediary/intermediaries having been obliged to pay damages to the claimant may bring contribution proceedings against the other entities liable. This means that if the claimant has decided to raise its claim against an intermediary who has not acted negligently, the intermediary may bring contribution proceedings against the manufacturer who did act negligently.
In the case of multiple entities who are jointly and severally liable, the provisions of the Act on the Liability to pay Compensation may be applied in certain cases in connection with the distribution of damages to be paid by the entities liable.
With regard to remedies available to claimants under the Products Liability Act, reference is made to the answer to question 3 above.
Consumers in Russia are entitled to bring both joint and several claims against the parties mentioned in section 3. Generally contribution proceedings may be brought by such parties against each other under general rules of civil law depending on the substance of the case. The main goal of such proceedings would be to establish causal link between actions of one party and the losses suffered by the other in result of the consumer’s claim.
If the damage is caused by several persons, they are jointly and severally liable for the entire damage. They have the option to (partly or fully) regress vis-à-vis other tortfeasors (depending on the severity of their guilt).