What is Joint Tortfeasors?
A tort is a civil wring done to a person in rem i.e. in his or her individual capacity. A person commits a civil wrong or tort is called a tortfeasor. Now if an act is done by 2 persons, who had common intention for a mutual act then they both would be held liable to compensate the person injured because of their act. The party injured can claim benefits from both the individuals because they acted in a joint manner towards the commencement of the act. Hence, the individuals responsible for committing tort with common intention are called as joint tortfeasors. The plaintiff in this case has the option to sue the persons involves in causing hurt individually or as a group.
How does joint tort liability arises?
The liability arises in three circumstances, namely:
- Vicarious Liability
- Joint Action
The concept of principle agent liability and partnership can be covered in agency. When one person has the authority to act on behalf of other person, then he or she is said to act as an agent for that person or group of persons, also called principle. In a partnership when one of the partner acts in the course of partnership then he acts on behalf of other partners as well because they all are in a partnership and are authorised to act on behalf of each other during the course of business. In both above mentioned cases if the person acting commits a civil wrong then along with that person on behalf of whom he was acting will also be held liable. If one partner do a wrong then other partners are also to be held liable.
When a person is held liable for the wrong committed by other person whom he had some kind of authority i.e. remuneration, authorization for action, hire & fire, then too benefits can be claimed from both the persons as both the individuals will be treated as joint tortfeasors. Example of such relationships are master-servant, employer-employee, where the acts are done in the course of employment.
When two or more persons jointly commit a civil wrong or cause injury which they had as common intention and as a common goal then both the persons involved will be held liable jointly and severally as joint tortfeasors.
Principle of contribution
When a defendant is asked to pay more than the damages then he or she can claim the excess payment from the other joint tortfeasor. The principle is introduced to do justice with the sharing of payment from the side of defendant in case it wasn’t only one person but an others too.
Criticism of Joint tortfeasor theory
Even if the actions of a person had little or no contribution towards the commencement of the act then too he or she has to pay more than the actual damages caused or more than the contribution to the damages from him. This sometimes led to unexpected and disproportionate results for joint tortfeasors.
- Khushro S. Gandhi v. Guzdar 1970 AIR 1468, 1969 SCR (2) 959
- CCS University, Paper 2005, https://ccsuniversity.ac.in/bridge-library/pdf
This article is written by Faiz Iqbal, from NMIMS’S School of Law