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What is Joint and Several Liability in Ohio?

by onApril 21, 2020

If you were injured in an auto accident with multiple other vehicles, you may hear the term “joint and several liability” used after the crash—it refers to situations in which more than one party is responsible for your injuries.  

Joint and several liability cases tend to be more complex than cases involving a single defendant. To make matters even more challenging, the state of Ohio does not follow the traditional joint and several liability rules. Here, our Toledo personal injury attorneys explain the most important things you need to know about joint and several liability in Ohio. 

An Overview of How Joint and Several Liability Works in Ohio

Although the term “joint and several liability” is used in Ohio, it is much more accurate to think of it as an “apportioned several liability” system. Under Ohio law (Ohio Revised Code § 2307.22), a joint defendant found liable for more than 50 percent of a plaintiff’s injuries can be held responsible for 100 percent of the plaintiff’s economic damages. 

However, a joint defendant found liable for less than 50 percent of a plaintiff’s injuries can only be held responsible for their share of the damages. Further, regardless of the level of fault, joint defendants are always only liable for their own share of a plaintiff’s non-economic damages. 

Here are two examples to help you better understand how the apportioned several liability system works in Ohio. 

Example #1: Pure Proportional Liability 

Imagine that you suffered $30,000 in damages in a Lucas County, OH car accident. In total, three different parties were found liable for the crash:

  • Defendant A: 45 percent at fault
  • Defendant B: 45 percent at fault
  • Defendant C; 10 percent at fault

Under Ohio’s apportioned several liability system, all three defendants would be legally responsible for their share of your economic and noneconomic damages. You would be required to pursue compensation for each defendant individually—no defendants would be obligated to pay more than their apportioned share of the damages.  

Example 2: Majority Fault Defendant

Consider the same scenario as above—however, in this case there are only two tortfeasors. Liability is assigned as follows: 

  • Defendant A: 55 percent at fault
  • Defendant B: 45 percent at fault. 

Under Ohio law, Defendant A—the majority fault tortfeasor—could be held responsible for 100 percent of your economic damages. However, this defendant could only be held liable for 55 percent (their share) of your non-economic damages. For the economic damages, the majority fault tortfeasor could then seek “contribution” from the other party who caused the accident. Contribution is essentially a defendant’s right to seek reimbursement from another at-fault party. To be clear, contribution is largely an issue for defendants to work out amongst themselves. It is not a direct concern for an injured victim. 

Contact an Ohio Personal Injury Attorney Today

At Lafferty, Gallagher & Scott, LLC, our Ohio personal injury lawyers are skilled, results-oriented advocates for our clients. If you were injured due to multiple parties’ negligence, do not attempt to resolve your claim alone. We will protect your rights. To set up a free review of your case, please contact our law firm today. With an office in Maumee, we serve communities throughout Northwest Ohio. 

 

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