Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Lawyer: Fair Share Act Not So Fair

The State Senate is now considering a bill passed by the House that supporters claim will save jobs, tax dollars and hospitals' costs. The current law states that a defendant, with more resources, in a multi-defendant civil suit may be required to pay damages for the actions of their co-defendants who have fewer monetary resources. The "Fair Share Act" would change the way damages are awarded in most civil lawsuits in Pennsylvania. Right now, if two companies are held liable, one of the defendants can be ordered to pay up to 100 percent of a judgment, even if the company is only responsible, for, say, 60 percent of the damages. By and large, House Democrats opposed the measure: their leader, Representative Frank Dermody of Allegheny County calls it the “Wrongdoers Protection Act.” Robert Peirce, personal injury lawyer for Robert Peirce and Associates, says there is room for improvement. "I am concerned that [The Fair Share Act] will not adequately address the situation, which is a business concern or lawsuits, but also I am worried that the public may ultimately, as a taxpayer, be picking up some of the damages for those individuals that are catastrophically injured in accidents." The law currently allows taxpayers in the Commonwealth to pick up the tab for the defendants who are found at partly fault. The new bill intends to make the liable defendants to pay the amount they are found liable for. Peirce says that if the legislation is passed, defendants will do everything they can to not be found more than sixty percent liable and as an unintended result, the court process will be slowed down and expenses will be increased for everyone. He says that the Senate has to take some factors into consideration before passing the bill. "Will this help businesses and defendants be spared from lawsuits that a defendant does not think are valid? I don't think the legislation, as it's written, will address those concerns." Pennsylvania remains one of the nine states who have not changed or eliminated the system of joint liability.

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