The Pennsylvania House of Representatives on Monday, April 11, passed the major piece of tort reform legislation for the session. HB 1, the “Fair Share” bill to limit joint and several liability, was approved on a vote of 122-88. The bill protects defendants determined be less than 60 percent at fault from having to pay more than their portion of the damages. (See Associated Press, “Pa. lawsuit liability bill wins House approval.”)
In a news release, Republican Gov. Tom Corbett praised the bill’s passage, saying “Excessive and frivolous lawsuits hinder job growth and hurt taxpayers by increasing costs for business, health care, consumer goods and services. This is a key component in addressing the issue most important to Pennsylvania – jobs.” See also news release, “Orthopaedic Surgeons Hail Passage of Fair Share Act HB 1 Brings Commonsense to Liability System.”
Also Monday, the Senate Judiciary Committee held a hearing SB 2, the companion “Fair Share” legislation. The trial lawyers group, the Pennsylvania Association for Justice, issued a statement decrying the bill, claiming, “The claim that eliminating joint and several liability in Pennsylvania will create jobs is an urban legend with no basis in reality. If SB 2 is enacted, insurance companies will receive windfall profits with no corresponding reduction in policyholder premiums. Future victims of negligence will become dependent on state and federal benefit systems.” And the sun never shines on the poor.
Leslie Smith, communications director for the Pennsylvania Chamber of Business and Industry, states the proven case in support of the reforms in an op-ed published, “Fair Share Act would restore balance“:
Evidence shows that common sense legal reforms enacted in other states have lowered consumer costs, created jobs, reduced insurance costs and increased business investment and innovation. Unfortunately, Pennsylvania’s unbalanced legal system is preventing these same benefits from being realized here.
Testifying in the Senate hearing in support of the legislation and a competitive business climate for the state were Mark Behrens of Shook, Hardy and Bacon, LLP and Kirk Liddell, President and CEO, Irex Corporation. Manufacturers say thanks for speaking up.
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