HARRISBURG – Governor Tom Corbett today signed into law legislation sponsored by Senator Corman (R-Centre) aimed at restoring fairness to the judicial system by reforming the application of joint and several liability. The legislation passed both chambers with bi-partisan support.
Known as the “Fair Share Act,” the legislation is based on the premise that a defendant should only be responsible for paying his or her fair share of damages in a civil case. Our civil justice system is not supposed to be used as a lottery – it should be based on fairness, common sense and responsibility,” Corman said. “The current system allows for abuse that has a significant impact on every individual in Pennsylvania through higher costs and lower economic opportunity.”
Under the joint and several system, defendants found liable in a civil suit could be required to pay the full verdict, even if they are minimally responsible. Senate Bill 1131 reforms the tort doctrine by disallowing joint liability in cases where a defendant is less than 60 percent legally responsible. Pennsylvania is one of nine states, and the District of Columbia, that has not passed this measure of lawsuit reform.
“The bill strikes the right balance between fostering a healthy business environment for job growth and ensuring victims will remain compensated for their injuries,” said Corman.
In 2002, the Fair Share Act was signed into law only to be struck down on a procedural court challenge. It was passed again in 2005, but was vetoed by Gov. Ed Rendell.
“This is a big step forward to helping business in our state remain viable and bringing new jobs and opportunity to our state,” Sen. Corman said. “Reforming the joint and several liability system in Pennsylvania provides fairness and predictability. Defendants in civil cases should be assessed according to their level of responsibility, not by how deep their pockets are. This legislation is long overdue.”