'Fair Share Act' Brings Proportional Fault to Pennsylvania, Dramatically Altering the Law of Joint and Several Liability

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Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Corbett signed Senate Bill No. 1131 (known as the "Fair Share Act") into law Tuesday, June 28, dramatically limiting defendants' exposure to joint and several liability in negligence cases.

Prior to enactment of the Fair Share Act,* Pennsylvania law allowed a plaintiff in a negligence case involving multiple defendants to recover 100 percent of its damages from a single defendant, no matter that defendant's proportional liability. In other words, a defendant found to be 10 percent liable for causing plaintiff's harm nonetheless could be 100 percent responsible for plaintiff's damages. The single defendant, then, bore responsibility for seeking contribution from the other defendants in proportion to their liability. Aside from the obvious inequity of piling wildly disproportionate financial responsibility on a marginal defendant (particularly when the other more responsible defendants turned out to be judgment-proof), this regime also tended to create complex webs of litigation insofar as a defendant's claims for contribution would proceed apart from the plaintiff's lawsuit.

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