Proposed Legislation: Changes to Joint and Several Liability “The Fair Share Act”
April 12, 2011
The State House of Representatives has passed legislation to change how damages are awarded in civil lawsuits involving multiple defendants. On April 11, 2011 the House passed the proposed “Fair Share Act” by a vote of 112-88.
Pennsylvania’s current Joint and Several Liability Law establishes that a defendant in a multiple defendant civil case is required to pay damages associated with the actions of its co-defendants. As such, in cases with multiple defendants, a defendant who is minimally liable can be forced to cover all damages awarded to a plaintiff if other defendants found at fault are not able to pay.
However, The Fair Share Act eliminates joint liability for defendants in most 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 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. Only when a defendant is found to be more than 60 percent liable can they be forced to cover all damages awarded to plaintiff. There are however a few exceptions to the new law where a partially liable defendant may be required to pay an entire judgment. These include (1) Intentional misrepresentation (2) An intentional tort (3) A release or threatened release of a hazardous substance under the Hazardous Sites Cleanup Act and (4) A civil action in which a defendant has violated the Liquor Code.
The act will now go to the Senate for Consideration.