Recent court decision may signal downfall of joint and several law

President's Message

by Richard J. Schubert, Esq.


Richard J. Schubert, a partner in the Pittsburgh law firm of Lydon & Schubert, P.C., is President of the Pennsylvania Trial Lawyers Association.

(11/17/03) -- Last Monday, the Pennsylvania State Supreme Court struck down as unconstitutional legislation that transferred control of the Pennsylvania Convention Center from the City of Philadelphia to a state appointed board.   The legislation was struck down because it violated the state constitution by including more than one subject in the bill. 

As you may know, those are exactly the same grounds that the recent change to joint and several liability is being challenged.  As the Philadelphia Inquirer reported on Tuesday, "The [Court's] decision will likely affect the state's medical-malpractice law, which was approved last year .... [In suits against the law, plaintiffs] argued that the General Assembly violated the single-subject rule by including two unrelated provisions: proportional liability in lawsuits and DNA testing of sex offenders."  [Philadelphia Inquirer, 11/11/03]

As I am sure you will agree, rejection of this change to joint and several liability would be a major victory for us and the rights of our clients.  It also forces the groups that benefit from the elimination of joint and several to make a strategic choice: do they want to use their energies to get it re-enacted or do they continue to push for other priorities, such as caps on non-economic damages?  It is unlikely that they can do both.

The Supreme Court is expected to decide on the challenge in the coming months. As PaTLA learns more, we will keep you posted.

PaTLA and other victims' advocates have begun to turn the tide against those who would unfairly limit a plaintiff's rights.  In the coming weeks and months, they will again try to attack these protections, but PaTLA will be there to fight back.

We've shown we can do it and together, we will.