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Media Release - Contribution Between Person Liable for the Same Damage (25 May 1999)

The New South Wales Law Reform Commission will today release a report on contribution between persons liable for the same damage. The report aims to ensure that injured people are fully compensated when they suffer loss caused by more than one wrongdoer.

Where two or more people are liable for the same damage, the injured person can claim the full amount of his or her loss in damages against any one of them. But the person who pays the damages can then claim contribution from the other wrongdoers according to the level of their responsibility.

Two or more people can be responsible for the same damage in a wide variety of cases from, for example, a pedestrian slipping in the street to a complex commercial dispute.

The present law relating to contribution in New South Wales dates from a statute of 1946. The statute restricts the types of actions in which contribution may be claimed and its provisions are unclear in many other respects. The Report reviews the law relating to contribution and contains 16 proposals to improve and extend the law of contribution including a proposal that wrongdoers have a right to claim contribution beyond their existing rights in tort.

The Commissioner in charge of the project, Professor Michael Tilbury said:

'The extension of contribution to cases involving contracts is a much needed reform and follows similar developments in Victoria and England.'

The report strongly supports the retention of the rule that an injured person can claim damages for the full amount of the loss suffered against any person who is responsible for that damage ('joint and several liability') and rejects proposals for a system of proportionate liability which would allow a court to decide the shares for which each party is liable, and leave the injured party to bear the risk that one or more is unable to pay.

'In supporting the retention of joint and several liability the Commission has placed a high value on the interest of injured persons in obtaining full compensation' said Michael Tilbury.

MEDIA COMMENT: Contact Mr Joseph Waugh (Legal Officer) at the NSW Law Reform Commission on (02) 9228 8230. Copies of the Report are available from the Commission or on the Commission's web site at:​