Duhaime's Law Dictionary


Liability Definition:

A legal obligation, either due now or at some time in the future.

Related Terms: Absolute Liability, Strict Liability

In White v Green, Justice Robinson of the Supreme Court of Iowa wrote:

"Liability, in the legal sense, is the state or condition of one who is under obligation to do at once or at some future time something which may be enforced by action. It may exist without the right of immediate enforcement."

In Miller & Lux, Justice Temple noted that:

"The word liability has always been held to apply to responsibility for torts as well as for breach of contracts."

Similarly, in Mayfield:

"Liability is a broad legal term which is usually held to include every kind of legal obligation, responsibility or duty, certainly all that are measured by money obligation. Liability may arise from contract, express or implied, from a duty imposed by law, or by judgment of a court, or as a consequence of tort committed."

In Burke, Justice Helper of the Manitoba Court of Queen's Bench wrote:

"The word (liability) is a broad legal term.... It has been referred to as of the most comprehensive significance, including almost every character of hazard of responsibility, absolute, contingent or likely. It has been defined to mean all character of debts and obligations, an obligation one is bound in law or justice to perform; an obligation which may or may not ripen into a debt; any kind of debt or liability, either absolute or contingent, express or implied; condition of being actually or potentially subject to an obligation; condition of being responsible for a possible or actual loss, penalty, evil, expense or burden; condition which creates a duty to perform an act immediately or in the future; a duty to perform some other service; duty which must at least eventually be performed; every kind of legal obligation, responsibility or duty.”

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