Joint and several liability in Nevada means that multiple defendants in a personal injury case can each be held individually liable for 100% of a plaintiff's injuries. In Nevada, defendants may be jointly and severally liable only in the following cases:
- Nevada strict liability cases;
- An intentional wrongful act (such as battery);
- The emission, disposal or spillage of a toxic or hazardous substance;
- The concerted acts of the defendants; or
- Injuries from dangerous products manufactured, distributed, sold or used in Nevada.
Therefore, defendants may not be jointly and severally liable in most Nevada negligence cases.
Meaning of joint and several liability in Nevada
“Joint liability” means that more than one party is liable for a plaintiff's injury by either:
- acting together to commit a wrongful act; or
- acting individually but causing a single, indivisible injury
Meanwhile, "several liability" means that a defendant can be held liable for a plaintiff's injuries without the plaintiff having to sue any other liable parties.
Joint and several liability is a legal doctrine that permits plaintiffs who have been injured by more than one party to recover 100% of their damages from only one party (or less than all the parties) who caused the plaintiff's injury.
Certainly, plaintiffs are not allowed to not seek more than 100% of their damages. Once they get all the money they are entitled to through a trial or a settlement, they may not then seek more money by any other responsible parties who were not involved in the trial or settlement.
Benefits of joint and several liability in Nevada
The purpose of joint and several liability is to make it easier for accident victims to recover damages in cases where one or more of the defendants are unable to be sued. (Common reasons that may immunize defendants from lawsuits include insolvency or living in another jurisdiction.)
Therefore, in cases where more than one party share joint and several liability, the plaintiff is not required to sue all of them in order to recover 100% of his/her damages. Each individual responsible party is liable for 100% of the damages.
Once a plaintiff recovers all his/her damages from less than all the responsible parties, the parties that paid can then sue the parties that did not pay. This way, the responsible parties can fight over contributions and sharing the burden while the plaintiff is already paid and moving on.
Note that if a plaintiff settles out of court with one responsible party and then sues another, the judge in the subsequent lawsuit will subtract the prior settlement amount from any money damages awarded. This should prevent the plaintiff from receiving more than the 100% of damages he/she is entitled to.
Joint and several liability versus comparative negligence
Under Nevada law, joint and several liability is inapplicable in negligence cases where multiple defendants harm a plaintiff. Instead, Nevada's comparative negligence law apportions the blame to each responsible party (which may include the plaintiff) and calculates the damages accordingly.
For example, a jury finds that two drivers are equally to blame for hitting the plaintiff. The plaintiff sustained $100,000 in damages. Therefore, the two drivers are ordered to pay $50,000 each (half the total amount) to the plaintiff.
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- NRS 41.141 When comparative negligence not bar to recovery; jury instructions; liability of multiple defendants.
1. In any action to recover damages for death or injury to persons or for injury to property in which comparative negligence is asserted as a defense, the comparative negligence of the plaintiff or the plaintiff's decedent does not bar a recovery if that negligence was not greater than the negligence or gross negligence of the parties to the action against whom recovery is sought.
2. In those cases, the judge shall instruct the jury that:
(a) The plaintiff may not recover if the plaintiff's comparative negligence or that of the plaintiff's decedent is greater than the negligence of the defendant or the combined negligence of multiple defendants.
(b) If the jury determines the plaintiff is entitled to recover, it shall return:
(1) By general verdict the total amount of damages the plaintiff would be entitled to recover without regard to the plaintiff's comparative negligence; and
(2) A special verdict indicating the percentage of negligence attributable to each party remaining in the action.
3. If a defendant in such an action settles with the plaintiff before the entry of judgment, the comparative negligence of that defendant and the amount of the settlement must not thereafter be admitted into evidence nor considered by the jury. The judge shall deduct the amount of the settlement from the net sum otherwise recoverable by the plaintiff pursuant to the general and special verdicts.
4. Where recovery is allowed against more than one defendant in such an action, except as otherwise provided in subsection 5, each defendant is severally liable to the plaintiff only for that portion of the judgment which represents the percentage of negligence attributable to that defendant.
5. This section does not affect the joint and several liability, if any, of the defendants in an action based upon:
(a) Strict liability;
(b) An intentional tort;
(c) The emission, disposal or spillage of a toxic or hazardous substance;
(d) The concerted acts of the defendants; or
(e) An injury to any person or property resulting from a product which is manufactured, distributed, sold or used in this State.
6. As used in this section:
(a) “Concerted acts of the defendants” does not include negligent acts committed by providers of health care while working together to provide treatment to a patient.
(b) “Provider of health care” has the meaning ascribed to it in NRS 629.031.
Café Moda, LLC v. Palma, 272 P.3d 137 (2012).