Joint and Several Liability Reform

James Ogilvie, MD, and David H. Sohn, JD, MD

Tort reform has been widely advocated as a means to help control healthcare expenditures by reducing the practice of defensive medicine. Much attention has been focused on capping noneconomic damages, mostly due to the real-world savings seen when caps were implemented in California and Texas. However, the influence of trial lawyers at the federal level makes implementation of these caps on a national level unlikely, which has raised interest in noncap reforms. One such reform is joint and several liability (JSL).

What is JSL?
JSL is a form of liability that extends the entirety of blame to any of the defendants, regardless of the actual proportion of fault. For example, a plaintiff sues both the physician and the nurse involved in his care. The doctor is found to be 5 percent at fault, while the nurse is found to be 95 percent at fault. Under JSL, the plaintiff may pursue the physician for 100 percent of the damages.

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