The last ten years in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania there have been changes promulgated in Tort Law, including the MCARE Act, which limits the rights and remedies of individuals to seek recourse for professional negligence in medical malpractice and other health care actions.
Also during the 2000’s there have been efforts to promulgate even more extensive Tort changes. That is especially true with the new makeup of the Pennsylvania Legislature and Governor Tom Corbett, who had promised such changes as part of his campaign.
The Pennsylvania Insurance and Business community as well as Hospital and Health Care Leaders have indicated that they believe that this is the time where these changes will be passed.
There is currently legislation being proposed in the Pennsylvania Legislator which is substantially similar to a law that was vetoed in 2006 by then Governor Edward G. Rendell. A variety of substantial victim’s rights are being challenged by the proposed passage of this legislation:
Pennsylvania contains under its Tort law, the Joint and Several Liability provision, which holds that when there are multiple defendants, any defendant who is held 1% liable can be held responsible for the entire amount of an award awarded to a Plaintiff. The new legislation would change that long time Pennsylvania Law to have damage payments be spread among the defendants based on their level of responsibility for the injury, unless one defendant is more than 60% liable, then that defendant could be liable for the full damages awarded to the plaintiff.
Other proposals that would be pushed in the General Assembly by the business leaders here in Pennsylvania include one that would eliminate what they characterize as venue shopping in Tort cases. If enacted, the new law for venue choice in Pennsylvania would be substantially the same as that covering medical malpractice suits which has been in effect since 2003 when the Pennsylvania Supreme Court changed the Rules of Civil Procedure, which in essence limited medical liability actions to the counties where the injury occurred. If enacted, the legislation would affect the venue selections in all Tort actions within Pennsylvania.
There are also indications that some changes are attempting to be made to Product Liability laws but at this point the proposals are not as certain. The proposed changes may include such things as imposing a Statute of Repose and an “innocent seller provision”. What happens once the legislative session begins remains to be seen.