In its 39-page opinion in Roverano v. Crane, Inc., delivered February 19, 2020, the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania addressed a jury’s apportionment of liability on a percentage basis in strict liability asbestos cases and the inclusion of bankrupt entities on the verdict sheet, with important implications for the Pennsylvania Fair Share Act and bankrupt entities involved in litigation.
The ruling, they explain, held that “Pennsylvania’s Fair Share Act requires liability to be apportioned equally among strictly liable joint tortfeasors (i.e., on a per capita basis), and that the act permits the inclusion of bankrupt entities on the verdict sheet—assuming appropriate requests and proofs are made—if the bankrupt entity was either joined as a defendant or has entered into a release with the plaintiff.”
“The Roverano decision has greatly disturbed how asbestos litigation in Pennsylvania operates, and the effects will be significant for both plaintiffs and the defense,” Greg and Erin write. “Since the passage of the Fair Share Act—with its clear language as to ‘including actions for strict liability’—all defendants in asbestos litigation in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania have focused on their apportioned liability. As noted above, this decision now protects a defendant who should bear most of the liability at the expense of the minimally identified defendant, whose mention barely satisfies the prima facie proof requirements.”
They also add that the decision “ appears to point to an abrogation of the rule against ‘each and every fiber’ as a theory of causation. In claiming that asbestos diseases are incapable of apportionment, the majority ignores the science of dose; the body’s defense mechanisms; fiber type; a myriad of medical and scientific studies; and most importantly, the role of juries in these and other cases. For defendants, this decision is unfortunate, unsettling and an undoing of a fairer, common-sense approach.”
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