Joint and several liability applies in its own way to contracts. It applies in contract law when two or more people make the same promise to provide the contractual consideration.
The "joint" in "joint and several" means that two or more persons together promise to perform the same promise. There is only one promise. Performance by one of them discharges both.
The "several" means that two people make separate promises under the same contract or different contracts. The promises to perform are separate and freestanding from another.
The contracting party obtains a “win” when they obtain a promise from two or more people.
That’s because if the promise is not performed, the innocent party can:
- sue one of them (several liability)
- sue both of them (joint liability; several liability)
- sue one of them and then if unsuccessful, sue the other one (several liability).
They appear more frequently in contracts:
Example: Joint and Several Liability
Each of the Sellers shall be jointly and severally liable for the performance of their obligations under this Agreement.
or, for a sale of sales:
Where any obligation, warranty or undertaking in this agreement is expressed to be made, undertaken or given by the Sellers, they shall be jointly and severally responsible in respect of it. The Purchaser may release or compromise in whole or in part the liability of any of the Sellers under this agreement or grant any time or other indulgence without affecting the liability of any other of the Sellers.