The term Negligence means failure to exercise care towards others which a
reasonable and prudent person would in a circumstance or taking action with such
a reasonable person would not. When the negligence of two or more persons
results in the same damage to a third person there is said to be a "composite
Furthermore, in the case of composite negligence, each wrongdoer is jointly
liable to the injured for payment of the entire damages and the injured person
has the choice of proceeding against any or all of them.
The distinction between joint and independent tortfeasors is less important in
India than it is in England. The phrase "composite negligence
" has been
used to describe situations in which many tortfeasors, either jointly or
independently, were negligent. According to Indian circumstances, Indian courts
have adopted laws that are in line with justice, equity, and morality.
When more than two parties are involved in the injury's wrongful act, the
plaintiff is not required to perform a strict analysis of the event's immediate
or proximate cause in order to determine which negligent party to suit. He is
also not required to determine if there is a duty of contribution or indemnity
among the other parties, however in any case he cannot obtain more money overall
than his total loss. Any defendant may be held liable for the full amount of his
The law in such a case is that the claimant is entitled to sue all or any of
them for the full amount of his loss and each is said to be jointly and
severally liable for it; If the claimant sues the defendant A and not B and C,
it is open to A to seek "contribution" from B and C in respect of their relative
respective liability for this is a matter among A, B, and C and does not affect
claimant; the risk inherent in circumstances where there are distinct injuries,
of discovering that one defendant is insolvent (or uninsured) and being unable
to execute judgment against him. must demonstrate that he has experienced the
same, indivisible harm at the hands of a number of defendants.
Nature of liability in composite negligence
The composite tortfeasors are each jointly and severally liable. No tortfeasor
is permitted to argue that there should be an equitable distribution of blame
and that his liability should only extend to the degree of his negligence. the
verdict against the composite tortfeasor, and if the plaintiff so chooses, he
may pursue the entirety of his claim against any one of the defendants. The
defendant who has paid more than his fair share of his responsibility may ask
the other defendants for contributions.
In 1963, a single bench decision of the Punjab and Haryana High court i.e.
The State of Punjab v/s Phool Kumari
it had been held that there could be
apportionment of liability between various tortfeasors, but that decision has
dissented in many subsequent cases.
In Amthiben vs. superintending geophysicist, O.N.G.C
the Gujarat high
court apportioned the damages payable by the composite tortfeasors but stated
that the liability of the tortfeasors was joint and several, and this
apportionment was only for the purpose of working out their respective liability
inter,se. This was a case of both composite and contributory negligence and the
assessment of damages was made accordingly.
In this case, the driver of the jeep observed a truck coming into the middle of
the road from a long distance. The headlight of the truck was not dimmed. The
driver of the jeep dimmed the headlights, and reduced the speed but did not take
precautions to go on the kutcha road on the left side, to avoid an accident with
the truck. There was an accident between the two vehicles and one of the people
in the front seat of the jeep was thrown out of the jeep and killed.
It was found that there were 3 people in the front seat of the jeep whereas
there was only place for 2 people including the driver to sit comfortably. the
deceased was sitting on the extreme right of the driver and some portion of his
body was protruding outside the jeep.
The damages were assessed at Rs.99,000 but it was held that there was
contributory negligence of the deceased to the extent of 8-10% therefore, the
compensation payable was reduced by 9,000.
As between the composite tortfeasors i.e. the driver of the truck and the driver
of the jeep the liability was apportioned at 75% and 25% respectively. The court
however declared that this liability of the aforesaid respondent towards the
claimant shall be joint and several and the apportionment is for working out
their respective liability inter-se.
Difference Between Contributory And Composite Negligence
As was previously said, contributory negligence occurs when the plaintiff
exhibits negligence with regard to his own safety and his own carelessness
increases the injury that he has sustained. In such a situation, both the
defendant and the plaintiff are at fault for the plaintiff's negligence of
himself. Both the defendant's fault and his own contributory negligence
contributed to the plaintiff's loss. A defense is alleged contributory
negligence. The extent to which the parties are at blame in a case of
contributory negligence must be determined by the court. Damages were allocated
in both India and England.
If the plaintiff is judged to have contributed to the defendant's negligence,
the defendant's liability is lessened. For instance, if a bus conductor permits
a passenger to ride on the roof of an overcrowded bus, and the driver ignores
the passenger's presence on the roof and swerves the bus to the right, killing
the passenger as a result after the passenger is struck by an overhanging tree
branch and thrown to the ground, that is negligence on the part of the passenger
on the roof of the bus. If it is determined that both sides are equally (50%) at
fault, the defendant's liability will be diminished by 50 percent.
There is composite carelessness on the side of the individual inflicting damages
when a person is hurt as a result of the negligence of two or more other people.
in line with Shiv Dayal "Where a person is injured without his own negligence
but as a result of the combined effect of the negligence of two other people, it
is not the case of contributory negligence in that case. Therefore, in
contributory negligence, the plaintiff's own negligence contributes to the harm
he has suffered, whereas in composite negligence, there is negligence on the
part of two or more defendants towards the plaintiff, and the plaintiff himself
is not to be held liable."
Another thing to keep in mind is that anyone found guilty of composite
negligence is subject to joint and multiple culpabilities. Contrary to
contributory negligence, it has generally been decided that there is no
apportionment of damages that those responsible for the composite negligence
must pay. For instance, if Z has been injured as a result of the combined
carelessness of A and B, A and B will be held jointly and severally accountable
for the entire amount in Z's favor.
In the case of contributory negligence, damages are allocated according to who
is at fault-the plaintiff and defendant-while in the case of composite
negligence, even though multiple defendants are at fault, there will be a single
judgment for the full amount against everyone, without any apportionment of
damages.his position was explained by Jain, I. in the United Indian fire and
general insurance co. vs. Sayar Kanwar.
Claimant rights in composite negligence
Jointly responsible parties are held jointly and severally accountable for all
harm caused by the tort. Both of them or each separately could be sued. If
jointly sued, either party may be held responsible for the damage. Each bears
responsibility for any harm done. To determine who he can claim in a case for
composite negligence, the plaintiff does not need to follow a precise analysis
of the proximate or immediate cause of the incident.
Subject to the damage's remoteness regulations. He has the right to file a
lawsuit against all or any of the negligent parties, and it is irrelevant to him
whether those parties owe each other any contributions or indemnifications. he
has the right to recover the full amount of damages from any of the defendants.
All in all, when the negligence of two or more persons results in the same
damage, there is said to be composite Negligence, and the persons responsible
for causing such damage are known as composite Tortfeasors.
- Mahi Sharma
- Mahek Shah