An Overview of the Theories of Liability

Individuals are protected by legal rights but also have legal responsibilities towards others. Wrong is committed if an individual infringes a legal right by disrespecting duty. If there is a wrong, there is a liability.

Thus, a person committing a wrong is liable or responsible for it. Therefore, claimants can use various theories, referred to as theories of liability, to establish liability.

The nature of the law determines the kind of liability and which liability theories apply in a particular situation. Keep reading to learn more.

Theories of liability

Most jurisdictions ground a plaintiff’s claim of action on one or more theories. Each theory of liability has specific elements or conditions that the claimant must prove before establishing liability. Here’s a review of the theories of liability:

  •    Remedial liability

The theory of remedial liability is based on the maxim “Ubi jus ibi remedium,” which states, “where there is a right, there is a remedy.” If the law has provided a right, it must also offer a remedy for enforcing or claiming that right.

Similarly, if the law has imposed a duty on you, it must also ensure that it carries out redress. In the case of a breach of duty, there should be a legal remedy stipulated and implemented by the law.

This liability aims to remedy any wrong or violation of law by compelling the wrongdoer. Thus, in this case, the right is enforced. Here are some exceptions to remedial liability:

Imperfect obligations: Non-performance of imperfect duties does not give rise to any course of action and creates no criminal or civil remedial liability.

Incapable of specific performance: These are the duties or liabilities that, once broken, cannot be specifically enforced. Once a libel is published or the wrongdoer has committed assault, it is too late to compel them to refrain from such acts.

Theories of Liability

Specific performance being inexpedient: These are some cases where specific performance is possible, but the law may not enforce it. However, the aggrieved party may be compensated.

  •    Penal liability

The theory of penal liability is concerned with the punishment of the wrong. It is based on the maxim “actus non facit reum nisi mens sit rea.” This means an act alone does not amount to guilt until and unless a guilty mind accompanies it.

If the law proves the guilt of an accused person in a criminal case, the court sentences them to the proper punishment. The punishment may include the death penalty, a fine, rigorous imprisonment, simple imprisonment, etc.

Liability, a crucial study in the law career

The law provides enforcement, redress, and protection and establishes rights and obligations. Liability is, therefore, a crucial aspect of the study of law. You can acquaint yourself with liability study by enrolling in the online Juris Doctor Program at Cleveland State University Online.

The program hones your professional competencies and problem-solving skills and helps you build a strong foundation in your career. You become an expert in performing legal research and analysis, preparing legal arguments, and interacting with clients through live and simulated experiences.

Kinds of liability

In general, individuals are accountable for their wrongdoings and are not held responsible for the deeds of others. It is possible to classify liability further as civil, criminal, or vicarious.

  •    Criminal liability

A crime is a wrong committed against society. Thus, criminal liability arises if an individual commits a crime, leading to criminal proceedings. Criminal liability is always penal, and its purpose is punishment such as fines, imprisonment, etc.

There are three ways to measure criminal liability.

The motive of the offense: The law sees the reason for the wrongdoer behind the wrong. If the explanation is intense, then they receive severe punishments. Motive sometimes provides leniency to wrongdoers when circumstances compel them to commit wrong.

The magnitude of offense: How much profit a wrongdoer gets by committing the crime. If the wrongdoer gets more profit, then they receive an intense punishment.

The offender’s character: The law determines the offender’s character through criminal records. A history of criminal records and “bad” character means more severe punishment.

  •    Civil liability

Civil liability arises out of the infringement of the rights of individuals. Civil liability gives rise to civil proceedings, which may be penal or remedial, wherein the purpose is to enforce some rights.

These include damage recovery and specific performance. Civil liability depends on the nature of the contract or the nature of the wrong. In a civil action, it is significantly simpler to establish liability.

The plaintiff and their attorney can build a relatively solid case in weeks or months, depending on the claim you are pursuing. More prolonged proceedings may be necessary for more complex situations, especially litigation with high settlement demands.

  •    Vicarious liability

Vicarious liability means experienced second-hand. It is the liability of one person for the act of another. Generally, a person is liable for their actions and not for the actions of others. But in some instances, a person is held liable for the actions of another.

These include a master and servant liability, and the responsibility of a living person for acts of the deceased. Events that give rise to vicarious liability include:

  1. By ratification
  2. By abetment
  3. By special relationship
  •    Absolute liability

Generally, the law considers men’s rea necessary to hold a person liable. However, there are some exceptions to this general rule. It may hold a person responsible irrespective of wrongful intent or negligence, such as accidental cases.

Difference between civil and criminal liability 

  • If an accused person engages in civil wrongdoing, such as defamation, negligence, etc., they become subject to civil liability. An accused person is held criminally liable if they are found guilty of such crimes as rape, theft, sedition, and murder.
  • Criminal liability is determined under CrPC, while civil liability is defined under the CPC. The legal remedy for a civil offense is the wrongdoer’s payment of damages or compensation to the victim. At the same time, the legal remedy for criminal wrong is the state’s imposition of punishment on the perpetrator.
  • Criminal laws require the accused’s guilt to be proven beyond a reasonable doubt. In contrast, civil lawsuits are determined by the preponderance of the evidence standard.

In civilized societies, laws or rules that the state establishes or upholds control the majority of interactions between the state and an individual. Liability is the outcome of a violation of these laws.

It may be imposed on individuals or businesses by civil law, criminal law, or both. A claimant must prove that there is a breach of duty of care to show liability.