Fair Share Legislation
/ 18.Apr, 2011
Pennsylvania has long had a system of joint and several liability which is not favorable to defendants. Under the joint and several liability system in Pennsylvania, a defendant who is 1% negligent in a personal injury action may be responsible for the entire amount of the verdict. Such a rule promotes frivolous joinder of “deep pocket” defendants in lawsuits. Under this system, it is not unusual for defendants, with little or no liability, to be joined in personal injury actions in the hopes of securing additional sources of payment of verdicts. In such instances, non-liable defendants are often subject to “litigation blackmail” at the risk of facing the imposition of 1% liability and payment of an entire verdict. As a result, such defendants often pay monies just to be removed from the pending litigation. This “1% Rule” has been a source of constant criticism in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.
Recently, efforts have been designed to enact Fair Share legislation in Pennsylvania. This Fair Share legislation would only impose liability upon a defendant for payment of the entire verdict if it reached a certain level of culpability. Previously, the Pennsylvania Legislature passed a bill which would require a finding of 60% liability upon a defendant in order to allow imposition of responsibility for the entire verdict. Below that level, the defendant would only be responsible for its own percentage of negligence. This laws, although passed by the Legislature, was vetoed by Governor Rendell.
Recently, efforts to pass Fair Share legislation in Pennsylvania have resurfaced. On April 11, 2011, the Pennsylvania House of Representatives passed HB1 by a vote of 112 to 81. This Fair Share legislation is identical to the bill presently passed by the Pennsylvania Legislature. On April 11, 2011, hearings were also held before the Senate Judiciary Committee regarding SB2, the Senate version of Fair Share legislation. Also proposed in the Senate is SB500, a watered down version of fair share. It remains pending in the Senate as to what version of fair share will be enacted.
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