Contingent Liability

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contingent liability
A potential liability dependent upon some future event occurring or not occurring. For example, a company is named as a defendant in a $1 million lawsuit. Does that mean the company automatically has a liability of $1 million? What if the lawsuit has no merit and can easily be defended? If it is probable that the company will lose and the amount can be estimated, a journal entry is prepared to debit Loss from Lawsuit and to credit Lawsuit Payable. If it is possible but not probable that the company will lose, the journal entry is not made but instead there will be a footnote disclosure. If the lawsuit is remote (a nuisance suit without any merit), there is no need for a journal entry and no need to disclose the lawsuit. Accountants usually consider product warranties to be a contingent liability that is both probable and can be estimated and is therefore recorded with a journal entry. What is the difference between a contingent liability and an estimated liability? A contingent liability is a potential liability (and a potential loss). It is dependent upon a future event occurring or not occurring. For instance, if someone files a lawsuit against Jay Corp, Jay Corp will have a contingent liability. The lawsuit liability is dependent upon Jay Corp losing the lawsuit. (Some lawsuits are nuisance suits and will not cause a loss and liability.) When a contingent liability and loss are probable and the amount can be estimated, an estimated amount will be recorded as a liability. Some liabilities are not contingent liabilities but are estimated liabilities. For example, the electricity consumed, property taxes, worker compensation insurance premiums, repairs, etc. are absolutely owed because the services or goods were delivered. There is nothing contingent about these. However, the precise amounts may not be known at the time that the financial statements are prepared. Therefore, these liabilities had to be recorded by using estimated amounts....
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