HARRISBURG - The Republican-controlled state House on Monday overwhelmingly approved a bill to limit the liability of multiple defendants in lawsuits, sending the measure to an uncertain fate in the Senate.
The "fair-share" legislation, supported by business groups and opposed by trial lawyers, won approval on a 112-88 vote.
Proponents said the bill would fix an unfair law and make the state more attractive to prospective employers. The chief sponsor, Rep. Curt Schroder (R., Chester), said the bill signaled to businesses "that it is once again safe to create jobs in Pennsylvania."
Democrats sought to cast the bill as an attack on victims of accidents and medical malpractice, and to portray defendants in civil cases as wrongdoers. They also made a series of motions - all rejected by lopsided margins - aimed at letting them amend the bill.
"Who are we here for?" asked Rep. Mark Cohen (D., Phila.). "Are we here for victims, or just for defendants, in civil litigation?"
Majority Leader Mike Turzai said the bill was about apportioning damages among multiple defendants in civil judgments after a jury decided each defendant's share of responsibility. He said amendments were thoroughly aired in a committee and on the floor, and suggested that Democrats were resorting to false and "incendiary" claims in a desperate bid to sink the bill.
"Let's not make it something it's not," the Allegheny County Republican said, "Let's not be phony. Let's not be disingenuous."
The bill would protect defendants found to be less than 60 percent at fault from having to pay more than their share of damages. Current law holds all defendants liable for 100 percent of damages if their codefendants cannot pay. The measure includes exceptions for awards based on intentional misrepresentation, intentional torts such as assault, and certain violations involving hazardous waste or liquor laws.