Joint and Several Liability

Date: July 11, 2009

Jennifer was a passenger in a car being driven by her friend, Carol. While going down Main Street in Hawley, a car came out of one of the side roads being driven by Madison. Madison ran a stop sign and drove her vehicle directly in front of Carol\’s vehicle, resulting in an accident. Jennifer was injured in the accident and suffered a broken shoulder as well as a bad neck sprain.

When Jennifer brought suit against Madison, Madison\’s lawyer joined Carol as an additional defendant in the lawsuit, stating Carol was also partially to blame because Carol did not keep an adequate lookout at the time of the accident.

The case went to trial, and Jennifer was awarded $150,000. Madison was found to be 95% negligent and Carol only 5%. Unfortunately, Madison only had $15,000 in coverage, while Carol had $100,000 in coverage.

Issue: How much can Jennifer collect from Carol\’s insurance company?

Answer: While it seems unfair, Jennifer is entitled to collect the entire $100,000 from Carol\’s policy. She will have collected $115,000 out of the total verdict of $150,000. Carol\’s insurance company will have a right to try to recoup some of the monies directly from Madison, but the likelihood of that happening is very unlikely.

This is referred to as joint and several liability that allows these types of outcomes. It is still the law in Pennsylvania and, as mentioned before, has resulted in many unfair outcomes where people that are found only slightly negligent bear the greater the cost of covering judgments.

Disclaimer: The above article is for instructive purposes only and each case is fact sensitive. Consultation with an attorney should be obtained instead of reliance upon the legal issues discussed in this column.

Joe Price
Attorney Joe Price is a seasoned Trial Lawyer serving Northeast, Central and Southeast Pennsylvania for the past forty (40) years. He has handled serious personal injury cases in courts throughout the Federal system including New Jersey and New York. Attorney Price is A.V. Rated by Martindale Hubble. He is Board Certified in Civil Practice by the National Board of Trial Advocacy since 1996.