House Passes Lawsuit Abuse Reform

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State Representative Mike Turzai
28th District, Pennsylvania House of Representatives

HARRISBURG – The House today passed a measure aimed at keeping employers and jobs in Pennsylvania, saving tax dollars and helping hospitals remain open, said Majority Leader Mike Turzai (R-Allegheny). House Bill 1,"he Fair Share Act," passed by a vote of 112-88.

"This simple, reasonable and responsible lawsuit abuse reform will help put an
end to deep pocket frivolous lawsuits and is a necessity if we want to improve
Pennsylvania’s economic and health care climate," Turzai said.

"The current system is susceptible to abuse by plaintiff lawyers seeking
co-defendants with deep pockets such as large employers, hospitals or state and
local governments."

The Fair Share Act eliminates joint liability for defendants in civil cases found to be less than 60 percent liable and implements a system of comparative responsibility in which a defendant is responsible for paying only his fair share of the damages.

That means if a party is responsible for 10 percent of the fault, that party would be accountable for paying only 10 percent of the total award. Under current law, the doctrine of joint and several liability establishes that a defendant in a multi-defendant civil case may be required to pay damages associated with the actions of its co-defendants.

Each year, according to the acting attorney general, the Commonwealth is sued
several hundred times; currently, more than 1,300 tort cases are pending against the state. The majority of these cases involve the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDOT) where an uninsured, or under-insured, driver caused death or bodily injury. The plaintiffs are just looking for someone to pay, regardless of fault.

The current system of joint and several liability has a direct impact on
Pennsylvania taxpayers who are left paying the share of others who are at fault.

House Bill 1, the Fair Share Act, uses the same compromise language as Act 57 of
2002 which was signed into law by Gov. Mark Schweiker. It was challenged in court by House Democrat leaders on procedural, not substantive, grounds. They wanted to stop the reform – and succeeded. The Fair Share Act was again passed in 2006, but it was vetoed by Gov. Ed Rendell, though he had previously promised support.

"Enacting this reform measure into law sends a strong message that
Pennsylvania will no longer tolerate people who want to abuse the system for their own financial benefit,” Turzai said. The Fair Share Act is a commonsense measure that restores fairness and balance to Pennsylvania’s judicial system."

Pennsylvania is one of only nine states to have not modified or abolished the system of joint liability.

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