Tort Reform Battle in PA

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We have posted from time to time on the important issue of tort reform, and the need for it in many jurisdictions.

Now in our home state, the Pennsylvania’s General Assembly is currently considering tort reform of the joint and several liability rules. The Pennsylvania Comparative Negligence Act, 42 Pa.C.S.A. § 7102, establishes that a civil litigant may recover damages provided his negligence is not greater than the negligence of the defendants. The Act permits the plaintiff to recover damages as long as the negligence of the plaintiff is not greater than the causal negligence of the defendants. Thus, Pennsylvania employs the 51% rule. With respect to the liability of defendants, the Act mandates a form of joint and several liability under which a plaintiff is allowed to recover damages from multiple defendants collectively or from each defendant individually. Currently, when the case involves more than one defendant, each defendant found to be at least 1% negligent is responsible for the entire verdict. The plaintiff can collect from one defendant and force that defendant to try to go against the others for recovery.

These kinds of rules obviously affect how lawsuits are defended, tried and settled. Plaintiffs have an incentive to name a defendant with minimal liability but sufficient assets in an attempt to essentially extort settlement proceeds under the 1% rule. The right of recovery against the co-defendant is often worthless, especially in settings like the asbestos mass tort. Of course the minimally liable defendant may incur large litigation costs before being able to settle the claim at that inflated amount.

Please see full article below for more information.

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DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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