Joint and Several Bill Remains Pending

/ 17.May, 2011
The House of Representatives in Pennsylvania has passed the Fair Share Act reforming joint and several liability in Pennsylvania. The Fair Share Act eliminates joint liability for defendants in civil cases found to be less than 60% liable. The act thus implements a system of comparative responsibility in which the defendant is responsible for paying only his or her fair share of damages. Thus, if a party is found to be 10% responsible, that party is accountable for paying only 10% of a total verdict or award. Under the current doctrine of joint and several liability, any defendant found to be at least 1% liable is responsible for the entire verdict. Senate Bill 2, which incorporates the same language, is pending. Hearings are being conducted. Interestingly, House Bill 1 and Senate Bill 2, the Fair Share Act, used the same language as Act 57 of 2002 which passed in the 2001-02 Session and was signed into law by Governor Mark Schweiker. That law was then challenged in court by house democratic leaders on procedural, not substantive, grounds. That challenge succeeded. The Fair Share Act was again passed in 2006 but was vetoed by Governor Rendell. The Pennsylvania Legislature is now seeking to reenact those reforms. Majority Leader Mike Turzai (R-Allegheny) supports the enactment of the Fair Share Act. Governor Tom Corbett has also backed the Fair Share Bill and urged implementation of the reforms. The matter remains pending in the Pennsylvania Senate.