gavel.gif (3462 bytes) Legislative News

S. B. 5 tort restrictions dead this session

By Timothy A. Shollenberger

Pennsylvania’s civil justice system remains intact at the conclusion of the 2000 Legislative Session. Those who wish to obliterate the rights of victims of auto collisions, dangerous products and medical negligence saw nothing pass in this legislative session despite offering Senate Bill 5, the wish list of the tort restrictors, at the beginning of the session two years ago.

The trial bar, including representatives of PaTLA and the Pennsylvania Defense Institute, negotiated to achieve a consensus that was fair to all concerned. Unfortunately. those who wish to fundamentally change the civil justice system do not want a balanced system fair to all, rather one that unfairly insulates them from harm at the expense of those who are injured and most vulnerable to the powerful interests they represent.

In the spirit of compromise, PaTLA leadership was prepared to accept language providing for a statute of repose, greater protections for innocent retailers, and committed to a joint proposal supporting the incorporation of Federal Rule 11 into the Pennsylvania Rules of Civil Procedure. But this was not enough for the tort restrictors. They wanted much, much more. They insisted upon a comparative responsibility provision that would make it virtually impossible to recover against a peripherally liable joint tortfeasor, even if the tortfeasor’s negligence was a substantial factor in causing the harm. They refused to even discuss any proposal that did not include caps on punitive damages that would protect those who willfully and outrageously cause injury to others.

As the next Legislative Session unfolds, PaTLA remains committed to protecting and preserving the civil justice system and those who need its protections the most. We will also continue to fight to expand the rights of the innocent and injured in Pennsylvania. It will not be easy. We need your help, both financially and in the commitment of time. There are many ways to do so. One of the best ways is to become a contributor to LAWPAC, the Political Action Committee of the Pennsylvania Trial Lawyers Association, or, if you are already a contributor, to increase your level of giving.

I look forward to leading this great Association in the months ahead. I hope you will join me in the fight to preserve the rights of all Pennsylvanians to a fair and responsive civil justice system.

Tim Shollenberger in President of the Pennsylvania Trial Lawyers Association.

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