Written By: Frank G. Salpietro, Esq.
On June 28, 2011, Governor Tom Corbett signed into law Senate Bill 1131, more commonly known as the “Pennsylvania Fair Share Act.” Prior to the passage of the Act, a person or entity found even partially negligent in a civil suit could be required to pay 100% of the damages awarded to a Plaintiff. For example, even if a jury or court found that each of three defendants were equally negligent, and thus equally responsible for the harm caused, a plaintiff could force one of the defendants to pay 100% of the damages, even though he was only 1/3 responsible. This created a situation where the individual or business with the “deepest pockets” would often be targeted by a plaintiff. That individual or business’ recourse would be to chase the remaining defendants – - who often had little or no assets – - thus leaving the wealthiest defendant “holding the bag.”
The Fair Share Act attempts to balance a plaintiff’s right to full recovery with the perceived injustice of the above example. While not completely eliminating the possibility that a defendant will have to pay more than his share of damages based on the percentage of negligence assigned, the Act raises the threshold substantially.
If a person is found to be less than 60% liable in a negligence or strict liability case, then the Fair Share Act prohibits the successful party from recovering more than that defendant’s share of responsibility. Thus, in the above example, a person found 1/3 negligent could not be required to pay more than 1/3 of the damages (in other words, that person’s “fair share”).
Anyone found 60% or more liable cannot take advantage of the Act’s limitations. In addition, the Act does not provide shelter to anyone who is found liable for fraud, intentional misrepresentation, any intentional tort, violations of the Hazardous Sites Cleanup Act, or certain violations by persons holding liquor licenses.
If you would like more information about the Fair Share Act or its application to your business, contact Frank Salpietro at 412-338-1185, or any of the attorneys at Rothman Gordon. Frank Salpietro is a seasoned litigation and corporate/transactional practitioner representing regional, national and international clients, including individuals, family-owned enterprises, lending institutions and start-ups. He can be reached at (412) 338-1185 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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