The Pennsylvania Fair Share Act: The Fairest of Them All?

On June 28, 2011, Pennsylvania Governor Tom Corbett signed the highly controversial Act 17 of 2011 into law. This legislation has become popularly known as “The Fair Share Act,” as Defendants found to be less than sixty percent (60%) at fault in particular litigation are only to be responsible for paying their percentage of apportioned fault. Described in another way, the legislation protects a Defendant from having to make full payment on damages should another liable Defendant not have the resources to pay their share of the liability. The legislation applies to “all actions brought to recover damages for negligence resulting in death or injury to person or property.”

Gov. Corbett has deemed this legislation to be a victory for Pennsylvania businesses, such as hospitals and insurance companies. The bill’s sponsor, Senator Jake Corman, Republican, argued that forty (40) other states have changed their version of joint and several liability. Opponents of the Act believe that the rights of the injured are being sacrificed for the protection of the wrongdoer.

Prior to the passage of this legislation, a Defendant could be responsible for 100% payment of damages awarded by a Judge or jury even if it was determined that that particular Defendant was only 1% liable for the Plaintiff’s injury. Incidentally, the Fair Share Act contains exceptions to the premise of Defendants paying only their apportioned liability. Where a Defendant is deemed to be more than 60% liable for injuries, said Defendant must pay the full amount of damages. A Defendant may also be compelled to pay the full amount of assessed damages in cases of “intentional misrepresentation,” “intentional torts,” liquor law violations, and when the release, or threatened release, of hazardous substances is involved.
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