Virginia: Joint and Several Liability – a Lawyer’s Argument

Virginia: Joint and Several Liability – a Lawyer’s Argument

Virginia cases of joint and several liability for damages in tort are legion. Virginia’s damages rule of law is hornbook:

In the law of damages the proximate cause of an injury may in general be stated to be that act or omission which immediately causes or fails to prevent the injury; an act or omission occurring or concurring with another, where, had it not happened, the injury would not have been inflicted, notwithstanding the latter.

It is not essential, therefore, for a plaintiff to show that an act, claimed to have been the proximate cause of a certain result, was the only cause. It is sufficient if it be established that the defendant’s act produced or set in motion other agencies, which in turn produced of contributed to the final result.

If two defendants are negligent one of them cannot be exonerated by urging and showing the negligence of the other. Where the concurring negligence of the two produces a single injury and each is its proximate cause they are both liable.

Von Roy v. Whitescarver, 197 Va. 384, 352 (1955)(citation and asterisks omitted)(emphasis added). “It is well settled in Virginia that where separate and independent acts of negligence of two parties are the direct cause of a single injury to a third person and it is impossible to determine in what proportion each contributed to the injury, either or both are responsible for the whole injury.” Maroulis v. Elliott, 207 Va. 503, 511 (1966).