On June 28, 2011, Governor Tom Corbett signed SB 1131, better known as the “Fair Share Act.”
The Fair Share Act abolishes joint and several liability of Defendants in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. Formerly, under joint and several liability, any Defendant who was found liable for an injury could be liable to pay 100 percent of the jury award to the injured party, even if it was 1%.
Joint and several liability was important to Pennsylvania personal injury victims for a variety of reasons. Primarily it prevented victims from being not compensated or under-compensated for their injuries. This was because if one defendant did not have the money to pay the victim for their injuries, the victim could be fully compensated by any other defendant who was partly at fault.
The legal principle behind joint and several liability rested upon the premise that defendants were in the best position to pay for the victim’s damages. Now, under the “Fair Share Act” injury victims may very well be not compensated and/or under-compensated for their injuries.
Now, Defendant’s liability will be “several” as opposed to “joint” unless the case falls into one of the following categories:
- Defendant is 60% or more at fault;
- There was an intentional misrepresentation;
- There was an intentional tort;
- There was a release or threatened release under the Hazardous Sites Cleanup Act; and
- There was a violation of Section 497 of liquor code (Dram Shop Actions, where a bar serves alcohol to a visible intoxicated patron).
The ramifications of “Fair Share Act” is unclear since the law is so new. However, there could be great impact on taxpayers. If a victim is not compensated or under-compensated, then medical bills go unpaid and would fall on the state or federal government programs (i.e. Medicare and Medicaid) for payment. Moreover, if a victim is not compensated or under-compensated for wage loss, then a victim would like seek assistance through state or federal government programs.