We are independent & ad-supported. We may earn a commission for purchases made through our links.

Advertiser Disclosure

Our website is an independent, advertising-supported platform. We provide our content free of charge to our readers, and to keep it that way, we rely on revenue generated through advertisements and affiliate partnerships. This means that when you click on certain links on our site and make a purchase, we may earn a commission. Learn more.

How We Make Money

We sustain our operations through affiliate commissions and advertising. If you click on an affiliate link and make a purchase, we may receive a commission from the merchant at no additional cost to you. We also display advertisements on our website, which help generate revenue to support our work and keep our content free for readers. Our editorial team operates independently from our advertising and affiliate partnerships to ensure that our content remains unbiased and focused on providing you with the best information and recommendations based on thorough research and honest evaluations. To remain transparent, we’ve provided a list of our current affiliate partners here.

What does "Jointly and Severally" Mean?

By C. Mitchell
Updated May 16, 2024
Our promise to you
MyLawQuestions is dedicated to creating trustworthy, high-quality content that always prioritizes transparency, integrity, and inclusivity above all else. Our ensure that our content creation and review process includes rigorous fact-checking, evidence-based, and continual updates to ensure accuracy and reliability.

Our Promise to you

Founded in 2002, our company has been a trusted resource for readers seeking informative and engaging content. Our dedication to quality remains unwavering—and will never change. We follow a strict editorial policy, ensuring that our content is authored by highly qualified professionals and edited by subject matter experts. This guarantees that everything we publish is objective, accurate, and trustworthy.

Over the years, we've refined our approach to cover a wide range of topics, providing readers with reliable and practical advice to enhance their knowledge and skills. That's why millions of readers turn to us each year. Join us in celebrating the joy of learning, guided by standards you can trust.

Editorial Standards

At MyLawQuestions, we are committed to creating content that you can trust. Our editorial process is designed to ensure that every piece of content we publish is accurate, reliable, and informative.

Our team of experienced writers and editors follows a strict set of guidelines to ensure the highest quality content. We conduct thorough research, fact-check all information, and rely on credible sources to back up our claims. Our content is reviewed by subject matter experts to ensure accuracy and clarity.

We believe in transparency and maintain editorial independence from our advertisers. Our team does not receive direct compensation from advertisers, allowing us to create unbiased content that prioritizes your interests.

The phrase “jointly and severally” is used in the U.S. legal system to indicate a shared liability or responsibility. The phrase has three primary applications: personal injury lawsuits, corporate partnerships and business arrangements, and securities offerings and bond underwritings. In each instance, the phrase indicates that all of the involved parties share so closely in the central action that they can each be treated as having sole responsibility. In other words, the parties are jointly responsible for the actions any other party takes individually, or severally.

Joint and several liability can apply in a personal injury case when more than one defendant contributed to the injuries. Each U.S. state has its own set of tort, or personal injury, laws, and not all permit joint and several liability. If allowed by state statute, joint and several liability means that any defendant who caused any portion of an injury can be sued for the full amount of damages.

Whether defendants in personal injury cases should be held jointly and severally liable is a controversial issue, even in states that permit it. Supporters argue that shared liability makes it easier for injured parties to recover. Defendants, they say, are in a better position to apportion liability amongst themselves without involving the injured party in extended court proceedings. On the other hand, critics point to the inequality of pinning full liability on a party who caused but a small fraction of the harm. Critics say that joint and several liability encourages lawyers to strategically sue those parties who are the wealthiest, regardless their proportion of fault.

When “jointly and severally” is used in partnership agreements or incorporation documents, the meaning is similar—all partners will be treated as any one. Parties usually use the “jointly and severally” language as a way of enabling one partner to make decisions for the entire partnership. The actions of any partner who shares in a partnership jointly and severally can be attributed to any other partner.

In some cases, a court will declare that joint and several liability applies to a partnership, even if it has not been expressly chosen by the partners. For example, most laws of incorporation require that all partners be jointly and severally liable when a company makes an initial public offering (IPO) of its stock options. IPO documents must make certain important declarations about the company’s profits, revenue, and other facts. Falsification in IPO documents is enough to sustain a lawsuit against either the corporation as a whole, or any partner individually.

The phrase also appears in certain financial situations. Investment banks will often structure loans to multiple borrowers with a clause designating joint and several liability, which enables the bank to recover the entire amount of the loan from any one of the borrowers. In bond underwriting scenarios, underwriters are often jointly and severally liable for some percentage of bonds owned by a shared group, or syndicate. Under the rules of joint and several liability, an underwriter can be compelled to absorb the failure of other syndicate members to sell shares, even if the underwriter has already met his agreed-to percentage.

Whether joint and several liability applies to any given fact pattern is largely a matter of local law. If a jurisdiction requires joint and several liability, that liability will often apply, even if not expressly agreed to by the parties. Conversely, if a jurisdiction does not permit shared liability, writing it into an agreement will not guarantee its application. The best thing to do when wondering whether joint and several liability can be pursued or when considering putting a joint and several liability clause into a contract is to contact an attorney familiar with local laws.

MyLawQuestions is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.

Discussion Comments

MyLawQuestions, in your inbox

Our latest articles, guides, and more, delivered daily.

MyLawQuestions, in your inbox

Our latest articles, guides, and more, delivered daily.