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the liability of a citizen or legal person for violation of obligations arising in a civil law relationship.
Civil liability typically involves property, as in compulsory repossession or recovery of a sum of money. The most common forms of civil liability are compensation for losses and payment of a penalty or fine. Civil liability may also consist of nonproperty sanctions against the violator, such as the requirement that he repudiate prior statements that defamed the honor and dignity of citizens and organizations.
Under Soviet law, the grounds, limits, and types of civil liability are defined by the Basic Principles of Civil Legislation of the USSR and the Union Republics, the civil codes of the Union republics, the Railroad Statute, and other such normative instruments. Civil liability ensues only when injury or damage is inflicted on a victim through the illegal and culpable behavior of a person bound by obligation and where there is a causal relationship between the illegal behavior and the damage. Civil liability ensues upon nonexecution or improper execution of a contract; this constitutes contract liability. Damage caused to one person by the illegal actions of another constitutes noncontract liability.
If there are several creditors or debtors involved in an obligation, that is, if there is a plurality of obliged parties, a distinction is made between several liability, joint liability, and subsidiary liability. For example, under several liability, each of a number of debtors is responsible, but only to a certain defined extent. Under joint liability, the creditor has the right to demand full execution from any of the debtors. A debtor who has singly fulfilled a joint obligation has the right to bring suit against his fellow debtors. Subsidiary liability recognizes the right of a creditor, after bringing suit against the primary debtor, to seek the unfulfilled portion of the obligation from another debtor. Examples of subsidiary liability include the liability of joint debtors to a fellow debtor who has compensated losses jointly caused, the liability of parents or guardians for damage caused by their minor children between the ages of 15 and 18, and the liability of a guarantor under a contract of suretyship.