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Fair Share Act is the New Law in Pennsylvania on Joint and Several Liability

On June 28, 2011, Governor Corbett signed into law SB 1131, commonly referred to as the Fair Share Act. The Fair Share Act pertains to joint and several liability of defendants in civil litigation matters, and in short, allows parties bearing only partial responsibility for an injury or loss to be responsible for no more than their percentage share of the judgment.

Under the Fair Share Act, a defendant who is found less than 60% liable for an injury or loss, as compared with the total liability of all defendants, will only be responsible to pay damages proportional to the fault attributed to them by the jury. Thus, if a defendant is found to be liable for 25% of an injury or loss, according to the Fair Share Act, that defendant will pay only 25% of the judgment awarded by the jury. On the other hand, a defendant who is found to bear greater than 60% of liability for an injury or loss will be responsible for the full amount of damages, regardless of their percentage of fault.

With the passage of the new law, defendants in Pennsylvania may now be held "severally" liable, as opposed to "jointly" only. Alternatively, the old joint and several law provided that a defendant found responsible for only 1% of an injury could be held liable to pay up to 100% of the damages owed to the injured party. Essentially, under the old law, each defendant was held without exception to be jointly liable with the others for the full value of the damages.

Causes of action that accrued prior to June 28, 2011 will still be subject to the former joint and several liability rule. There are also four exempted circumstances to which the Fair Share Act does not apply:

  1. A suit including an intentional misrepresentation;
  2. A case of intentional tort
  3. A suit concerning the release or threatened release of a hazardous substance under the Hazardous Sites Cleanup Act; or
  4. A civil action in which a defendant has violated section 497 of the Liquor Code.

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