Mike Dougherty and A.J. Ober are in San Diego, CA this week attending the National Association of Subrogation Professionals - Litigation Skills Conference.
We have met many great attorneys and insurance professionals, while attending courses to improve our litigaton techniques and better represent our clients.
On January 27, 2011, changes to the PA Comparative Negligence law (42 Pa.C.S. § 7102) were proposed to the PA General Assembly under House Bill No. 1.
As the law currently stands, when liability is apportioned among multiple Defendants, all Defendants are deemed jointly and severally liable, regardless of their percentage of apportioned fault. This has long been referred to in Pennsylvania as the 1% rule.
For example, suppose a motor vehicle accident occurs and a Jury determines that Plaintiff is awarded $10,000.00. The Jury determines that liability is apportioned as follows: 70% to Defendant A; 29% to Defendant B; and 1% to Defendant C. Now further suppose that Defendant A and Defendant B are individuals that are not insured, but Defendant C is a large corporation with insurance. As the law currently stands, Plaintiff may rightfully seek the full $10,000.00 verdict from Defendant C only. This often occurs when one Defendant has “deeper pockets”, when compared to their Co-Defendants.
The opposite of PA’s current law is a pure several liability theory. Under several (rather than joint and several),Plaintiff could only recover 1% of the $10,000.00 verdict from Defendant C.House Bill No. 1 proposes somewhere in between. Here, if Defendant A is found 60% liable or more, they can be on the hook for the full verdict. But, any Defendant that is found less than 60% liable, only owes Plaintiff according to their apportioned percentage of liability.
It is important to note that House Bill No. 1 has yet to be approved, and will not likely be voted on for a few more months. Until then, the 1% rule is still in effect.
A.J. Ober, Esq.