Composite Negligence: Meaning and Examples

Under tort law, an individual is liable for any damage they unintentionally cause. If more than one person causes the same harm, they may all be held jointly and severally liable for the full extent of the harm done. One such legal term used in tort law is composite negligence, which is used to describe a situation where two or more parties are jointly responsible for harm or injury to another person as a result of their combined negligence.

In such circumstances, an injury or loss is brought on by the combined negligence of two or more parties, and the injured party is entitled to compensation from each party at fault.

Meaning of Composite Negligence

Composite negligence describes the situation in which, two or more people negligently causes the same damage to a third person. And, the people responsible are referred to as "composite tortfeasors."

In England, there are two types of composite tortfeasors −

  • Joint tortfeasors and

  • Independent tortfeasors, with different liabilities.

However, in India, such distinctions are irrelevant, and the term "composite negligence" refers to the negligence of tortfeasors, whether joint or independent.

Nature of liability in composite negligence

In cases of composite negligence, the tortfeasors are jointly and severally liable. No one is allowed to argue that damages should be distributed equally and that his liability should be determined by the degree of his fault. The plaintiff has the option of enforcing the entirety of his claim against any one of the defendants, and the judgment against the composite tortfeasors is for a single amount without any apportionment. However, the defendant who has paid more than his share may seek payment from the other defendants.

Claimant Rights in Composite Negligence

Joint tortfeasors are liable for the entire damage caused by the tort for which they may be sued jointly or severally. If jointly sued, either party may be held responsible for the damage. Each is responsible for the injury sustained.

To determine who he can sue in a "composite negligence" suit, the plaintiff is not required to follow a strict analysis of the proximate or immediate cause of the event. He is allowed to sue all or any of the negligent parties, subject to the rules regarding the remoteness of the damage, and it is not his concern whether there is a duty of contribution or indemnity between those parties, though he cannot recover more than the total amount of the damage. Any defendant may be held liable for the full amount of his damages.

Examples of Composite Negligence

Examples of composite negligence include the following.

  • Motor Vehicle Accident − A pedestrian is struck by a speeding and intoxicated driver. Due to the fact that both drivers' actions contributed to the collision, both could be charged with composite negligence.

  • Medical Malpractice − If a surgeon fails to properly sterilize his instruments and a nurse fails to monitor the patient's vital signs throughout the procedure, and the patient develops complications as a result, both the doctor and the nurse may be charged with composite negligence.

  • Product liability − A company makes a defective product that harms a customer, and the retailer also fails to thoroughly inspect the product before selling it. Liability for composite negligence may extend to both the manufacturer and the retailer.

  • Workplace Injury − An employee sustains an injury at work as a result of both the employer's failure to provide adequate safety equipment and the employee's failure to adhere to appropriate safety procedures. Potential liability for composite negligence exists for both the employer and the employee.


The legal concept of composite negligence holds multiple parties accountable for an individual's harm or injury. It happens when more than one party's negligence causes an accident or injury, and the plaintiff brings legal action against each of the responsible parties. Commonly, composite negligence is used when several parties are involved in an individual's harm or injury.

Frequently Asked Questions

Q1. What is composite negligence?

Ans. A situation in which multiple parties jointly cause harm or injury to a Third person is referred to as composite negligence in the law. Each party is accountable for the harm they have caused in a case of composite negligence.

Q2. What are the factors that determine the extent of liability in cases of composite negligence?

Ans. The degree of negligence on the part of each party, the nature and seriousness of the harm or damage, and the plaintiff's own negligence all play a role in determining the scope of liability in composite negligence cases.

Q3. Who can be held liable in cases of composite negligence?

Ans. All parties who contributed to the negligence can be held liable in cases of composite negligence. Liability is generally apportioned based on the degree of each party's contribution to the harm caused.

Q4. Can a plaintiff recover damages in cases of composite negligence?

Ans. In cases of composite negligence, a plaintiff can recover damages. However, if the plaintiff is found to have contributed to their own harm, the damages awarded may be reduced.

Updated on: 08-May-2023


Kickstart Your Career

Get certified by completing the course

Get Started