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Middle English lyable, from Anglo-French *liable, from lier to bind, from Latin ligare


  • 1 a : obligated according to law or equity : responsible b : subject to appropriation or attachment
  • 2 a : being in a position to incur —used with to <liable to a fine> b : exposed or subject to some usually adverse contingency or action <watch out or you're liable to fall>



  • In law a person is said to be legally liable when they are financially and legally responsible for something. Legal liability concerns both civil law and criminal law. Under English law, with the passing of the Theft Act 1978, it is an offense to evade a liability dishonestly. Payment of damages usually resolved the liability. Vicarious liability arises under the common law doctrine of agency – respondeat superior – the responsibility of the superior for the acts of their subordinate.
  • In commercial law, limited liability is a form of business ownership in which business owners are legally responsible for no more than the amount that they have contributed to a venture. If for example, a business goes bankrupt an owner with limited liability will not lose unrelated assets such as a personal residence (assuming they do not give personal guarantees). This is the standard model for larger businesses, in which a shareholder will only lose the amount invested (in the form of stock value decreasing).
  • Manufacturer's liability is a legal concept in most countries that reflects the fact that producers have a responsibility not to sell a defective product.