We recently reported in our Legal Update that Pennsylvania was considering tort reform. That consideration became law yesterday when Governor Corbett signed Senate Bill 1131, better known as the “Fair Share Act.” This law reforms how damages are recovered in civil lawsuits.
The bill amends Section 7102 of Title 42 of the Pennsylvania Consolidated Statutes regarding joint and several liability. Under joint and several liability a plaintiff could potentially recover the entirety of a judgment from a defendant found to be 1 percent negligent. The new law changes that in favor of a form of several or proportionate share liability and applies to actions which accrue on or after June 28, 2011.
Under the new law, where liability is attributed to more than one defendant, a defendant’s liability would be several and not joint, and the court would enter a separate and several judgment in favor of the plaintiff and against each defendant for the apportioned amount of that defendant’s liability. Essentially, each defendant would be responsible for their “fair share” (the amount of liability attributed to them by the jury). However, a defendant’s liability in any of the following actions would be joint and several, and the court would enter a joint and several judgment in favor of the plaintiff and against the defendant for the total dollar amount awarded as damages:
- Intentional misrepresentation
- An intentional tort
- Where a defendant has been held liable for not less than 60 percent of the total liability apportioned to all parties
- A release or threatened release of a hazardous substance under section 702 of the act of October 18, 1988 (P.L.756, No.108), known as the Hazardous Sites Cleanup Act
- A civil action in which a defendant has violated Section 497 of the act of April 12, 1951 (P.L.90, No.21), known as the Liquor Code