This section is from the book "The Law Of Contracts", by William Herbert Page. Also available from Amazon: Commercial Contracts: A Practical Guide to Deals, Contracts, Agreements and Promises.
If two or more persons constitute one party to a contract, the question as to the nature of their rights and liabilities presents itself. If two or more persons are promisors in a contract, their liability may be joint, or several, or joint and several. If their liability is joint, each of the promisors is liable, and may. be held for the entire liability arising under the contract.1 A several contract is one in which each of the promisors undertakes only a limited amount of the entire liability,2 or which in each severally undertakes the entire liability.3 A joint and several contract with reference to the promisors is one which the promisee at his election may treat either as the joint contract of all the promisors or as the several contract of each promisor.4
1 Mason v. Eld red, 73 U. S. (6 Wall.) 231, 18 L. ed. 783; Hambleton v. Jameson, 162 la. 186, 143 N. W. 1010. (Repudiation by one joint promisor may be treated by the promisee as discharge.) Meyer v. Estes, 164 Mass. 457, 32 L. R. A. 283, 41 N. E. 683.
See. The Joint and Several Liability of Partners, by Francis M. Burdick, 11 Columbia Law Review, 101.
2 Evands v. Sanders, 49 Ky. (10 B. Mon.) 201.
3 Lurton v. Gilliam, 2 111. 577, 33 Am. Dec. 430; Werlin v. Equitable Surety Co., 227 Mass. 157, 116 N. E. 484; Kimble v. Newark, 91 N. J. 249, 102 Atl. 637; Payne v. Jelleff, 67 Wis. 246, 30 N. W. 526.
The classification of contracts as to the liability of two or more promisors was very different at Roman law from the classification which has been adopted by the common law. Relies of the Roman law classification appear in the statutes of Louisiana, in which, howrever, certain common-law terms have been adopted. A joint obligation by the Louisiana statute is one in which several persons join in the same contract to do the same thing, but upon which judgment must be rendered against each defendant separately for his proportion while an obligation in solido is one in which several persons bind themselves in such a way that each is separately bound to perform the whole of the obligation. The joint contract of Louisiana law is therefore like our several contract as to liability, although it is like our joint contract as to the necessity of joining the parties;5 while the obligation in solido corresponds to our joint obligation.6 "A joint obligation under the laws of Louisiana binds the parties thereto only for their proportion of the debt, whilst a solidary obligation, on the contrary, binds each of the obligors for the whole debt."7