Liability – the quality; state, or condition of being legally obligated or accountable; a debt enforceable by civil remedy or criminal punishment

Notice: Types of liabilities are listed below.

n. (18c.)

1. The quality; state, or condition of being legally obligated or accountable; legal responsibility to another or to society, enforceable by civil remedy or criminal punishment <liability for injuries caused by negligence>. aka legal liability, subjection, responsibility.”

2. A financial or pecuniary obligation in a specified amount; DEBT <tax liability> <assets & liabilities> [1]

[ly e bil i tee]

1. Although broadly speaking “liability,” as used in the law, means legal responsibility, it is a general term whose precise meaning depends upon the context in which it appears. Among its usages are: a debt one is required to pay; an obligation one must discharge; the circumstance one is in when he has breached a contract; a person’s responsibility after she has committed a tort that causes injury It is also accurate to speak of the “criminal liability” of a person who has violated a criminal statute.

2. In everyday speech a burden or an unfavorable situation or circumstance. [2]

     Excerpt from William R. Anson’s Principles of the Law of Contract:

  “The term ‘liability’ is one of the least double signification, in one sense is the synonym of duty, the correlative of right; in this sense it is the opposite e of privilege or liberty. If a duty rests upon a party, society is now commanding performance by him & threatening penalties. In a second sense, the term ‘liability’ is the correlative of power & the opposite of immunity.  In this case society is not yet commanding performance, but it will so command if the possessor of the power does some operative act. If one has a power, the other has a liability.  It would be wise to adopt the second sense exclusively.  Accurate legal thinking is difficult when the fundamental terms have shifting senses.[3]

     Excerpt from John Salmond’s Jurisprudence:

     “Liability or responsibility is the bond of necessity that exists between the wrongdoer & the remedy of the wrong.  This vinculum juris is not one of a mere duty or obligation; it pertains not to the sphere of ought but to that of must.[4]

Types of Liabilities:

Liability Created by Statute – a liability created by statute, as opposed to one created by contract.

Tortious Liability – liability that arises from the breach of a duty that, when breached, is redressable by an action for compensatory, unliquidated damages.

Absolute Liability – a type of strict liability based on causation alone, without any other limiting factors. [1]


liability bond. See BOND (2). liability dividend. See scrip dividend under DIVIDEND.

liability in solido. See solidary liability under LIABILITY. liability insurance. See INSURANCE.

liability limit. (1915) Insurance. The maximum amount of coverage that an insurance company will provide on a

single claim under an insurance policy. -Also termed m1: of liability; policy limits.

‘ ‘ty release. See general release under RELEASE (8).


[1]: Black’s Law Dictionary Deluxe Tenth Edition by Henry Campbell Black & Editor in Chief Bryan A. Garner. ISBN: 978-0-314-62130-6

[2]:  Ballantine’s Law Dictionary Legal Assistant Edition
by Jack Ballantine 
(James Arthur 1871-1949).  Doctored by Jack G. Handler, J.D. © 1994 Delmar by Thomson Learning.  ISBN 0-8273-4874-6.

[3]: William R. Anson, Principles of the Law of Contract 9 (Arthur L. Corbin ed., 3d Am. ed. 1919)

[4]: John Salmond’s Jurisprudence 364 (Glanville L. Williams ed., 10th ed. 1947)


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