In actions for wrongful death, causation is not always so simple that a single person or legal entity can be identified as the sole defendant responsible for the decedent's death. For example, if a person dies in a car accident, it may be partly because of the fault of another driver and partly due to a mechanical defect on one of the vehicles that may be the responsibility of the auto manufacturer. A lawsuit would name both of these as defendants. Assuming that the plaintiff prevails, how are the damages to be divided among them?
Until 2005, Georgia followed a doctrine known as joint and several liability, under which all defendants were liable for all of the damages even if none of them was 100% at fault. In the example above, if the other deceased was not negligent, the other driver was 70 percent at fault and the auto maker was 30 percent at fault, the old doctrine would have let the plaintiff collect 100 percent of the damages award from either the other driver, or the auto maker, or some combination of both of them. Changes to the law, however, have made joint and several liability obsolete in Georgia.