Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Corbett signed into law the Fair Share Act, a tort reform bill. S.B. 1131 makes significant changes to Pennsylvania’s joint and several liability rules. Under the new law, defendants are only fully accountable for damages if plaintiffs prove that they are at least 60 percent at fault. If a defendant is less than 60 percent at fault, they are only required to pay for the percent of damages they caused. This is a significant change from Pennsylvania’s previous “pure” joint and several liability rules.
Interestingly, this is not the first time the Fair Share Act has been in the news. A previous version of the Act was instituted under Governor Schweiker, but it was later determined to be unconstitutional because of procedural errors when it was passed. A subsequent version of the Act was vetoed by Governor Rendell.
As Swartz Campbell attorney James Haggerty has said, the Act could act as a disincentive to drag people or companies into lawsuits as defendants when they have little liability. This act will have a substantial impact on most complex litigation including legal malpractice actions. The Act may have some impact on wrongful use of civil proceedings actions, however, exceptions for intentional torts and intentional misrepresentations should leave most wrongful use of civil proceedings actions subject to traditional joint-several liability.