Pa. Senate Votes to Revive ‘Fair Share’ Lawsuit Reform Act

December 7, 2005

The Pennsylvania state Senate has voted to restore the “Fair Share Act” lawsuit reform in a 32-18 vote.

State Sen. Jake Corman (R-34), the bill’s author, said that Senate Bill 435 brings Pennsylvania in line with lawsuit reform passed in 44 other states by eliminating “joint and severability” is cases where a defendant is found to be less than 60 percent responsible.

Pennsylvania enacted similar reform in 2002, but in July of this year, the Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court ruled that the 2002 law violated the state’s single subject requirement of the state’s constitution because the legislation also included language regarding DNA testing of sexual and violent offenders.

“The court ruled only on the process in which Act 57 of 2002 was enacted – not the merits of the legislation,” said Corman. “Restoring this reform will restore fairness and common sense to litigation in the Commonwealth.”

Senator Corman’s SB 435 restores the Fair Share Act to statute in a single piece of legislation.

“In 2002, the Fair Share Act overwhelmingly passed in the General Assembly and became the first significant civil justice reform enacted in decades,” Corman said. “Again, I have joined with medical professionals, hospitals, employers and state residents to reenact this important tort reform measure.”

Under joint and several liability, anyone found even 1, 5 or 10 percent liable in a civil suit can be held 100 percent financially responsible. A plaintiff may recover the full amount of an award from any defendant. According to Corman, the result is that litigants often go after people with “deep pockets,” putting Pennsylvania at an economic disadvantage with other states.

Senate Bill 435 provides that a defendant only is responsible for its proportionate share, said Corman.

“Pennsylvania’s current liability system is completely unfair and unpredictable, and that seriously impedes our ability to attract jobs and adds to health care costs. In fact, there are very few commercial insurers left in Pennsylvania that cover hospitals,” said Corman.

Senate Bill 435 will be sent to the House of Representatives for consideration.

It was not clear whether Democratic Gov. Ed Rendell would sign the Republican-sponsored bill if it reaches his desk.

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