liability

noun

li·​a·​bil·​i·​ty ˌlī-ə-ˈbi-lə-tē How to pronounce liability (audio)
plural liabilities
1
a
: the quality or state of being liable
was cleared of liability for the accident
2
: something for which one is liable
especially : pecuniary obligation : debt
usually used in plural
business assets and liabilities
3
: one that acts as a disadvantage : drawback
This scandal makes the candidate a liability for the party.

Example Sentences

The company is trying to limit its liability in this case. though his small size is a liability as a football player, he makes up for it with speed
Recent Examples on the Web The offensive line’s progress, from liability to adequate, put another building block into place. San Diego Union-Tribune, 8 Jan. 2023 Matt Cartwright, a representative from Pennsylvania, has proposed the Organ Donation Clarification Act, which would permit states to experiment with compensation free from criminal liability under the National Organ Transplant Act. WIRED, 5 Jan. 2023 In large part, gun and ammunition manufacturers and sellers are shielded from liability due to the 2005 Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act. Jeanine Santucci, USA TODAY, 28 Dec. 2022 The nine justices are scheduled sometime next year to decide on a case testing the limits of Section 230, a foundational law of the modern-day internet that shields tech companies from liability when users post harmful content. Jacob Carpenter, Fortune, 16 Dec. 2022 That’s thanks to the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act, signed by George W. Bush in 2005, which gives the industry broad protections from liability when their products are used in crimes. Matt Valentine, The New Republic, 14 Dec. 2022 Fox has said that the broad protections provided to the media under the First Amendment shield it from liability. Jeremy W. Peters, New York Times, 4 Dec. 2022 Jones’s father said in a deposition filed in the divorce case that Jones recruited him to leave dentistry in order to help professionalize operations and protect the company from liability. Jonathan O'connell, Washington Post, 21 Nov. 2022 Jones’s father said in a deposition filed in the divorce case that Jones recruited him to leave dentistry in order to help professionalize operations and protect the company from liability. Jonathan O'connell, Anchorage Daily News, 21 Nov. 2022 See More

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'liability.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

Word History

First Known Use

1705, in the meaning defined at sense 1a

Time Traveler
The first known use of liability was in 1705

Dictionary Entries Near liability

Cite this Entry

“Liability.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/liability. Accessed 2 Feb. 2023.

Kids Definition

liability

noun
li·​a·​bil·​i·​ty ˌlī-ə-ˈbil-ət-ē How to pronounce liability (audio)
plural liabilities
1
: the state of being liable
liability for his debts
liability to disease
2
plural : that for which a person is liable : debts
3
: something that works as a disadvantage : drawback

Legal Definition

liability

noun
li·​a·​bil·​i·​ty ˌlī-ə-ˈbi-lə-tē How to pronounce liability (audio)
plural liabilities
1
: the quality or state of being liable
2
: something for which one is liable: as
a
: a financial obligation : debt
tax liability
the bonds are liabilities
compare asset
contingent liability
: an amount that may or may not be owed depending on the outcome of a contingency (as a cosigner's default on a loan)
fixed liability
: a liability (as a bond or mortgage) that does not mature for at least one year from the date incurred or from a given date
b
: accountability and responsibility to another enforceable by civil remedies or criminal sanctions
liability for injuries caused by their product
absolute liability
: strict liability in this entry
alternative liability
: joint liability imposed on multiple tortfeasors when there are simultaneous tortious acts (as defective manufacture of parts of a wheel by different manufacturers) and uncertainty as to which act was the proximate cause of an injury compare concert of action sense 1
civil liability
: liability imposed under civil laws and civil process as distinguished from criminal laws
also : the state of being subject to civil sanctions (as restitution or damages)
the acquittal does not relieve the corporation of civil liability for its fraud
see also tort

Note: Civil liability is created by a legal theory or principle that places a duty or obligation (as to use due care) on the defendant.

corporate liability
: liability of a corporation that is enforced by sanctions imposed against the corporation itself see also pierce
criminal liability
: liability imposed under criminal laws and by means of criminal prosecution
also : the state of being subject to criminal sanctions
enterprise liability
: liability imposed on a business enterprise especially for on-the-job injuries to employees
specifically : liability imposed on defendants who are all members of an industry that has produced a defective product when the specific manufacturer cannot be identified
joint and several liability
: joint liability imposed on joint tortfeasors that allows enforcement of the entire judgment against any one of the tortfeasors

Note: In some jurisdictions, joint and several liability remains despite adoption of comparative fault, and in others it has been eliminated by comparative fault.

joint liability
: liability that is shared (as by co-owners)
specifically : liability for a tort that is imposed on joint tortfeasors when they have acted in concert, owe the same duty to the plaintiff, have a legal relationship, or otherwise together have caused an injury to the plaintiff and that allows contribution or indemnity between the joint tortfeasors
liability in solido
: solidary liability in this entry
liability without fault
: strict liability in this entry
personal liability
: liability imposed against an individual especially for injuries that occur on the individual's property or as a result of the individual's activities
premises liability
: liability arising from injuries or losses occurring on one's premises
primary liability
: liability imposed directly on a person because of his or her own negligence, default, or legal undertaking
products liability
: liability imposed on a manufacturer or seller for a defective and unreasonably dangerous product
specifically : strict liability for a defective product that does not require the plaintiff to have privity of contract with the seller or manufacturer

called also product liability

Note: A plaintiff usually must show that a defective product was the proximate cause of injuries, was defective at the time of purchase, and was used for its intended purpose in order to establish a products liability claim.

secondary liability
: vicarious liability in this entry
: liability (as of a guarantor) that arises from a legal obligation owed to an injured party to pay damages for another's failure to perform or negligent act
several liability
: liability assumed or imposed on an individual separate from others
solidary liability
in the civil law of Louisiana : liability that is shared by obligors and that makes any one obligor liable for the entire obligation to the obligee but also apportions the liability among the obligors so that contribution is allowed
specifically : such liability for a tort that is imposed on joint tortfeasors see also solidary obligation at obligation
strict liability
: liability that is imposed without a finding of fault (as negligence or intent)
vicarious liability
: liability that is imposed for another's acts because of imputed or constructive fault (as negligence) see also respondeat superior
3

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