As of June 28, 2011 Pennsylvania significantly changed the law of Joint and Several Liability. Prior to this change if an injured party brought a claim against more than one defendant each defendant would be potentially responsible for the entire amount of any jury verdict even if the comparative responsibility of that defendant was only 1%.
For example Party “A” is in a three car collision caused by Parties “B” and “C”. After a trial a jury returns a verdict for “A” in the amount of $100,000. The jury further apportions liability and determines that “C” is 2% responsible and “B” is 98% responsible. The problem is that “B” only has $15,000 insurance coverage. Under Pennsylvania’s prior law “A” would receive $15,000 from “B” (the full amount of their coverage) and $85,000 from “C” (even though “C” was only 2% responsible). “A” therefore collects the full amount of the jury verdict.
Under the new Joint and Several Liability law that took effect in June a party defendant is only responsible for their proportionate share of the verdict as determined by a jury. If the jury determines that a party is 60% or more responsible for the accident then that party will be responsible for the entire verdict as they would have been under the prior law. There are other exceptions to the law that will be discussed in Part 2 of this Blog.
For example Party “A” is in the same collision as described above with Party “B” and Party “C”. The jury again returns a verdict in the amount of $100,000. The jury again apportions liability and determines that “C” is 2% responsible and “B” is 98% responsible. “B” again only has $15,000 insurance coverage. “A” would receive $15,000 from “B” (the full amount of their coverage) and $2,000 from “C” (their share of responsibility or 2% of the verdict). “A” would receive a total of only $17,000 even though the verdict was for $100,000.
Edward Shensky is a Shareholder and member of Stark & Stark’s Yardley, PA office, specializing in Accident & Personal Injury Law. For more information, please contact Mr. Shensky.