A coalition of business and health-care organizations held a legal reform summit in Harrisburg on Tuesday, February 1 and pushed for the end of joint and several liability, approval innocent seller legislation and other changes in Pennsylvania’s tort system.
“Our point in all this is that there’s a direction connection between a state’s legal climate and job creation,” said Gene Barr, Vice President of the Pennsylvania Chamber of Commerce & Industry. “Right now Pennsylvania has one of the worst legal climates in the country.”
Harrisburg observers say that the General Assembly is likely to approve a change in joint and several but additional changes proposed by the business and healthcare communities are less certain. These include an innocent seller provision; an end to venue-shopping in all civil liability cases; fair limitations on noneconomic damages; and the ability of health-care providers to acknowledge, express empathy for, or take ownership of an unforeseen outcome without the risk of retaliatory litigation based solely on those statements.
“The votes are likely there for joint and several, but we have to be careful how hard and fast they push for some of the other changes,” one long-time business lobbyist said. “Some of the other issues will get a little dicier in the General Assembly.”
Under the changes in joint and several proposed by business, a defendant would pay damages based on the proportion of his liability, unless he is deemed to be over 60 percent liable. In those instances, the defendant could be held 100 percent responsible for any damages.