Bill Limiting Civil Damage Suits Reaches Pa. Gov. Rendell’s Desk

March 16, 2006

Legislation that would significantly scale back the obligation of defendants to pay damage awards in some civil lawsuits was approved by the Pennsylvania House of Representatives this week, although it faces an uncertain fate on Gov. Ed Rendell’s desk.

For months, lawyer groups and business advocates have battled over the legislation, which was geared to replace a 2002 law that was never enforced before it was struck down by the Supreme Court last year.

Supporters said it would improve the state’s business climate and protect businesses from frivolous lawsuits. However, opponents said it would severely limit the ability of injured victims to get compensation.

The bill, which passed 118-81, would prevent victims from suing multiple defendants with one lawsuit. In addition, defendants would only have to pay the portion of the damages proportionate to their liability, unless they were at least 60 percent liable or their actions were intentional.

The legislation passed the Senate in December.

Rendell’s press secretary, Kate Philips, would not say whether the governor will veto it.

Under current law, victims can sue multiple defendants and be reimbursed for an entire damage award. If a defendant does not have enough money to pay their share, then the other defendants must pay that share.

Lawyers, many Democrats and Rendell, along with victims groups, had pushed legislation that would lower financial penalties for defendants in cases where the plaintiff bore some responsibility for an injury or damage.

But in an earlier vote, the legislation they supported narrowly failed, 99-100.

Was this article valuable?

Here are more articles you may enjoy.