Community Services and Long-Term Care: Issues of Negligence and Liability. What is Liability

01/01/1982

Liability is a broad legal term which encompasses almost every character of hazard or responsibility, absolute, contingent or likely. To be liable is to be exposed or subject to a given contingency, risk or casualty which is more or less probable, or to be responsible for a possible or actual loss, penalty, evil, expense or burden. To be liable is to be bound in law and justice to do something which may be enforced by judicial action.

Liability is not the same thing as being subject to a lawsuit. Agencies and individuals may be sued for imagined wrongs which they are alleged to have committed. Being sued is not the same as being liable. One is liable when one has a duty to someone. If that duty is ignored or breached a court will find that the individual was liable to carry out the duty and will impose a remedy to compensate the wronged party and may go on to impose punitive damages as well. It is practically impossible to prevent people who believe they were injured, whether or not this belief has any basis, from suing if they wish to do so. There are, however, some steps which agencies can and should take to hold frivolous or untenable suites to a minimum. These steps are discussed in this paper.

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