Lawsuit Abuse Reform Heads to Governor... Again

‘Fair Share Act’ will improve state’s jobs climate and help health care providers 

Leading the charge, for the third time, to curb lawsuit abuse on behalf of the Commonwealth’s residents, health care providers and job creators, Majority Leader Mike Turzai (R-Allegheny) announced today that legislation reenacting a landmark lawsuit abuse reform measure, the Fair Share Act, is heading to the governor to be signed into law. Senate Bill 1131, “The Fair Share Act” passed by a vote of 116-83. 

“The Fair Share Act is commonsense legislation aimed at saving jobs,” Turzai said. “Our intent was and is to protect every citizen’s access to the legal system and his or her right to sue, while preserving the concept of ‘responsibility matches fault.’ Pennsylvania’s courts must protect the rights of those who can be dragged into court by lawyers searching for ‘deep pockets’ and bring lawsuits against those minimally responsible, or not responsible at all. These lawsuits cost jobs by making employers afraid to expand or introduce new products for fear of being sued.” 

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 or her 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 their 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 (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. 

Senate Bill 1131, the Fair Share Act, uses the same compromise language as Act 57 of 2002, which passed and 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. Subsequently the Fair Share Act was again passed in 2006, but it was vetoed by Gov. Ed Rendell who actually promised support.  

“I hope and expect the governor to sign this commonsense lawsuit abuse reform soon, so all Pennsylvanians will have the legal protection they so desperately need,” Turzai said. “The Fair Share Act will help our hospitals and employers who have been unfairly impacted by lawsuits because of their ‘deep pockets.’” 

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

Contact: Stephen Miskin

Share |