If more than one person or entity shares the blame for acts or mistakes that amount to medical malpractice, their liability is said to be both joint and several. Under the legal doctrine of joint and several liability, an injured person may go after multiple parties for the entire judgment. For this doctrine to apply, however, each party’s act or negligence must have contributed to a single, indivisible harm.
The model of medical malpractice isn’t limited to the conduct of medical doctors. It also applies to other parties in the scope of employment, including surgeons, nurses, anesthesiologists, pharmacists, radiologists, and other health care providers. The hospital itself may also be held liable for medical negligence through the acts of its emp
How Joint and Several Liability Works
Joint liability refers to liability involving two or more who have acted in common to cause harm. With joint liability, each party that’s found to be jointly liable for medical mistakes is responsible for paying the plaintiff’s compensatory damages. The plaintiff cannot receive compensation twice for the same injury, but he or she can go from one joint defendant to another until all the damages are recovered.
Several liability, on the other hand, is the liability that’s separate and distinct from every other party’s liability. If multiple parties are severally liable, the plaintiff can sue each defendant for damages, depending on the percentage of fault. In Illinois, a defendant whose fault is less than 25% of the total fault attributable to the plaintiff and other defendants is severally liable for the plaintiff’s non-economic damages. For example, a surgeon negligently injures a patient in a surgical error and then a different physician causes further harm due to a medication error later that day. Both parties are liable to the plaintiff up the limit of the damages each caused.
Joint and several liability is intended to protect injured individuals from becoming unable to obtain compensation after sustaining an injury. It reduces the risk to a medical malpractice victim when one or more defendants are judgment-proof. A plaintiff cannot collect on a judgment awarded from a judgment-proof defendant because the defendant doesn’t have enough insurance or assets to cover their share of the judgment. This helps guarantee that a victim can pursue other wrongful parties for damage, even if the main party at fault lacks the financial resources for compensation.