On June 28, 2011, Governor Tom Corbett signed legislation, "The Fair Share Act" which he stated in his budget address abrogrates the doctrine of joint and several liability wherein he argued legal liability scares jobs away and leaves minor players stuck paying the full price of lawsuits. Under the new law, a defendant who is apportioned liability of 60% or less must only pay that portion for which they are found liable. Previously, a defendant found to be 1% liable could face responsibility for paying the entire amount of damages awarded if another liable defendant did not have the financial wherewithal to pay.
The new law in Pennsylvania maintains joint and several liability in cases of intentional misrepresentation, intentional torts, release of hazardous substances as well as dram shop actions.
With this legislation, Pennsylvania is in accord with most other jurisdictions although the percentage has been cited by its opponents as one of the highest thresholds in the nation. New Jersey's form of joint liability also provides the 60% threshold.
We trust the foregoing brings you current with a significant development in Pennsylvania tort law. Please contact us if you have any comments or questions concerning the application of Pennsylvania's new form of joint civil liability.
Robert M. Cavalier, Esquire