When the negligence of two or more persons results in the same damage to a third person there is said to be ‘composite negligence’, and the persons responsible are known as ‘composite tort-feasors’. In England there are two types of’ composite tortfeasors, i.e. joint tort-feasors and independent tort-feasors, the liability of them being different. In India, such distinction is not very much relevant and so far as their liability is concerned, the term “composite negligence” is used to cover the negligence of tort-feasors, whether they are joint or independent.
In case of ‘contributory negligence’, there is negligence on the part of the defendant as well as the plaintiff Plaintiff’s own negligence contributes to the harm which he has suffered. In the case of ‘composite negligence’, there is negligence of two or more persons towards the plaintiff, and the plaintiff himself is not to be blamed. While contributory negligence is a defence available to the defendant to overcome or reduce his liability in relation to the plaintiff, the composite negligence is not a defence.
In case of ‘contributory negligence’, there is apportionment of damages according to the fault of the plaintiff and the defendant. Plaintiff’s claim is reduced to the extent he himself is at fault. In case of ‘composite negligence’, there is no apportionment of damages between various tortfeasors according to their fault. There is a decree for the hole amount creating joint and several liability of all the defendants. If, however, one tortfeasor is made to pay more than his share of the damages, he can claim compensation from the other tortfeasors. In a case of composite negligence, the court may reduce the damages payable on account of contributory negligence.