Vanderbilt Law Review


John W. Wade

First Page



Much has been written regarding tort liability and the conflict of laws and there are numerous cases in the field.' But little attention has been paid to the conflicts aspects of the many legal problems which surround the concept of joint tortfeasors. This paper attempts to collect the relatively few decisions on the subject and to analyze the problems involved.

In the beginning it should be made clear that the term "joint tortfeasors" is used, unless otherwise indicated, in the broad, somewhat colloquial sense which most American courts use today. Thus used, it includes both joint tortfeasors in the narrow original common law meaning, and concurrent tortfeasors whose liability is several. Joint liability in the strict sense was imposed upon wrongdoers who were acting in concert, each being therefore responsible for the conduct of others; it may also exist in the case of principal and agent and other instances of vicarious liability and in the case of breach of a joint duty. Concurrent tortfeasors are those whose independent acts of negligence combined to produce a single, indivisible injury so that each is held liable for the full damage. A number of differences existed at one time between the legal attributes of these two concepts and some may exist today, at least in certain jurisdictions. These differences and others which have developed suggest that when more than one state is involved the laws are likely to be in disagreement so that the decision on the question of conflict of laws may well determine the outcome of the litigation.

With this introduction, it may now be appropriate to consider some of the more important problems.