June 2011 Joint & Several Liability Update
Governor Tom Corbett has signed a new law known as the Fair Share Act which will virtually eradicate the centuries old doctrine of joint and several liability in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. Under the new law, liability in almost all cases involving more than one at fault party will be several and not joint. What this enactment means is that in every case where there are multiple defendants, each defendant is only responsible for paying a share of the damages awarded proportionate to their percentage of the total liability, as long as they are not 60% at fault or more.
Proponents of the Act, including large corporations and insurance companies, have touted the Act as an effective means of closing their “deep pockets” in personal injury claims in which they are found less responsible than other defendants. Opponents of the Act counter that the it will result in seriously injured, yet entirely blameless, plaintiffs from being fully and adequately compensated for their damages which will lead them to seek medical and financial assistance from taxpayers (Department of Public Welfare, Medicaid, etc.) rather than from the private insurance companies of the parties responsible for their losses.
In any event, it remains to be seen how parties and their attorneys will react to the Act’s passage and therefore the true ramifications of the Fair Share Act may not be known until it is too late for hundreds, if not thousands, of injured persons to be made whole. To read more about this ongoing debate and a brief history of Joint and Several liability , click here and here.