The Pennsylvania House of Representatives has reportedly passed a bill (H.B. No. 1) that would change the way damages are awarded in most civil lawsuits. Apparently supported by the business community and opposed by the state’s trial lawyers, the bill would change Pennsylvania’s “joint-and-several” liability rule to allow defendants deemed responsible for a percentage of a judgment in a wrongful-death or injury lawsuit to pay no more than that percentage.

Referred to by proponents as the “Fair Share Act,” the bill would bring “significant commonsense reform,” Majority Leader Mike Turzai (R-Allegheny) told a news source. “People are tired of having to spend significant dollars to defend baseless suits.” Minority Leader Frank Dermody (D-Allegheny), who has reportedly dubbed the legislation the “Wrongdoer Protection Act,” asserted that the bill will not work. “We’re going to bring this to the people,” he said. Paul Lyon, a spokesperson for a Pennsylvania trial lawyers association, claims the bill would under compensate seriously injured people. “It unfairly places the burden on the backs of injured people instead of the negligent defendants who cause the injuries,” he was quoted as saying.

According to insurance industry interests, agents support the bill and expect the state Senate to vote on the tort reform legislation this month. They also predict that Governor Tom Corbett (R) will support it. The bill apparently passed the House by a 112-88 vote, with several Democrats joining the Republican majority. See The Associated Press, April 8, 2011; Insurance Journal, April 12, 2011.