California’s Civil Code § 1431.2 states that if there are multiple people responsible for causing harm (tortfeasors), they are responsible for paying economic damages together. However, they are only responsible for paying noneconomic damages in proportion to their share of the fault individually.
The full text of the statute reads as follows:
1431.2. (a) In any action for personal injury, property damage, or wrongful death, based upon principles of comparative fault, the liability of each defendant for non-economic damages shall be several only and shall not be joint. Each defendant shall be liable only for the amount of non-economic damages allocated to that defendant in direct proportion to that defendant’s percentage of fault, and a separate judgment shall be rendered against that defendant for that amount.
(b)(1) For purposes of this section, the term “economic damages” means objectively verifiable monetary losses including medical expenses, loss of earnings, burial costs, loss of use of property, costs of repair or replacement, costs of obtaining substitute domestic services, loss of employment and loss of business or employment opportunities.
(2) For the purposes of this section, the term “non-economic damages” means subjective, non-monetary losses including, but not limited to, pain, suffering, inconvenience, mental suffering, emotional distress, loss of society and companionship, loss of consortium, injury to reputation and humiliation.
According to California Civil Code 1431.2 CC, multiple defendants in a personal injury case will not be held “joint and severally liable” for any non-economic damages. Instead, each defendant is liable only for the percentage of non-economic damages he or she caused (if any). This percentage is decided by the judge or jury.
Non-economic damages are injuries that are difficult to put a dollar amount on. Examples include:
- Pain and suffering,
- Emotional distress,
- Physical impairment (such as loss of the use of a limb or organ),
- Loss of consortium
- Inconvenience, and
- Loss of life enjoyment.
Meanwhile, multiple defendants in a personal case can be held jointly and severally liable for economic damages. Examples include such expenses as
- medical bills,
- lost wages,
- property damage,
- lost earning capacity, and
- related out-of-pocket costs that can be easily calculated.
Note that CC 1431.2 also applies to wrongful death and property damage cases.1
- California Civil Code 1431.2 CC – Several liability for non-economic damages. See Plascencia v. Deese (Cal. App. 2d Dist. Jan. 20, 2021) 59 Cal. App. 5th 1148. See Collins v. County of San Diego (Cal. App. 4th Dist. Feb. 17, 2021) 60 Cal. App. 5th 1035.