Wednesday, February 23, 2011

PA: Will Commonsense Reform Pass Now?

Very interesting topic debated on the PCN Channel between Gene Barr VP Government and Public Affirs for PA Chamber of Business and Industry and Scott Cooper PA Association for Justice, VP.

Below are links to basically the positions taken while on the PCN TV program.

Now if the B and I group would please look into the wholly unconstitutional Keystone Opportunity Zones,

Right, talk about unfairness hasn't happened during the entire run of the Pennsylvania tax-abatement/exemption program since 1999. Hasn't happened for over 10 years of the documented as failed state program. Doubtful such will happen now.

How in reality is it fair that a select group of residents/homeowners and business owners whose property is authorized to be designated a KOZ (3-taxing bodies meet and forgive, annually) get local and state taxes waived for some amount of years - possibly 20 years - and yet the governments waiving these taxes don't cut expenses even a smattering thus other residents/homeowners and business landowners not in a KOZ must fork over not only their own tax bill payment but share the burden of the tax-free KOZers?

Yet not a peep from the PA Chamber of Business and Industry on that unfairness.

Guess there aren't enough disgruntled PA taxpayers not in KOZs to get the attention of that organization.

Sickening isn't it? See our long-standing coverage of PA Keystone Opportunity Zones found with a search of the site or in the sidebar links.

Net the Truth Online

Links some clips

Fair Share Act Pennsylvania state legislature

Schedule PCN TV call-in programming and guests

Pennsylvania Considers Tort Reform
By Kenneth J. St. Onge | February 18, 2011
Pennsylvania lawmakers are once again eyeing a tort reform package — a resurrection of the “Fair Share” act — that many in the insurance industry say would help put downward pressure on premiums and rein in what critics say is a legal system abused by plaintiffs’ lawyers in the state.

The tort reform package — which is similar to others previously proposed in Pennsylvania — would alter the mechanics of civil liability; that is, how the courts and juries assign a dollar value to judgments rendered against defendants.

Pennsylvania works differently from most other states, where guilty parties typically can be apportioned liability in civil cases. In other states, typically, a party that was found 50 percent at fault for causing $100 worth of damage would be responsible for paying $50. But in Pennsylvania, that same person could be held responsible for $100, under the legal theory joint and several liability. In a nutshell: one party can be forced to pay for the misdeeds of another.

The peculiar quirk is sometimes referred to as the “1 percent rule” since it’s conceivable — but unlikely — that a party in a lawsuit can be found 1 percent liable for causing an injury, but be forced to pay 100 percent of any monetary damages. In states where it’s allowed, it’s extremely rare, although it can happen. It’s also called the “deep pocket” rule by critics, who say it encourages lawsuits against companies with substantial assets.

Pennsylvania tort reformers, chiefly Republicans, say the measures — which would change rules regarding comparative and contributory negligence — are long overdue, benefit businesses in a struggling economy and would ultimately help drive down insurance costs. But plaintiffs’ attorneys counter that the measures would actually drive up legal costs — and could even open a slew of potential new lawsuits and claims against insurance agents.

It’s a huge concern for insurers, who often front the legal bills and pay the judgments against guilty defendants in the state, said Kari Kissinger, government affairs director for the Insurance Agents and Brokers (IA&B) group in Pennsylvania. “Those damages can sometimes be very, very high, so it really puts the cost burden on those that are perceived to have these deep pockets.” In other words: insurers.

But those concerns can have a real impact on other businesses, particularly when owners worry they will be sued for someone else’s mistakes. That type of tort climate brings higher insurance premiums and dissuades new businesses from opening, Kissinger said. “It’s well understood that businesses are hesitant to come to Pennsylvania, simply because they look at the Tort climate, number one being that we do not have an enactment of the Fair Share Act and are hesitant to come into the state… it creates that fearful and defensive environment.”...

Scott Cooper PA Association for Justice

Push is on for commonsense lawsuit abuse reform

Re-enactment of Fair Share Act is PA Chamber members' top priority
The PA Chamber is fully engaged with the General Assembly to secure enactment of a number of its members’ lawsuit abuse reform priorities. They include: ensuring that defendants in civil liability cases are responsible only for their fair share of damages; preventing plaintiffs’ attorneys from shopping for favorable court venues; protecting innocent sellers of products who had nothing to do with the product’s manufacture; and enacting other reasonable protections for manufacturers.

These improvements will help create a legal system that is fair for all Pennsylvanians.

The debate over lawsuit abuse reform, or tort reform, is about restoring common sense, fairness and personal responsibility to the Commonwealth’s legal system. This is important because a state’s legal system has a direct bearing on the cost and quality of health care; the cost of consumer goods and services; new product research and development; business investments and job creation. Pennsylvania has one of the worst legal climates in the nation, which threatens all of these.

One of the PA Chamber’s first orders of business is re-enactment of the Fair Share Act – or joint and several liability reform.

Under the Fair Share Act, damage awards in civil liability cases would be proportional to responsibility for an injury or loss except in cases in which a defendant is: (1) found liable for intentional fraud or tort; (2) held liable for environmental hazards; (3) held civilly liable as a result of drunk driving; or (4) held more than 60 percent liable for the injury or loss. However, a defendant who is found more than 60 percent, but less than 100 percent, liable would still maintain the right to take action against other defendants seeking compensation for contributory damages.

Under the current system of joint and several liability, a defendant found only 1 percent responsible can be held liable for 100 percent of the damages. Trial lawyers take advantage of the unfair legal doctrine in order to go after “deep pockets.” The reasonable changes contained in the proposed Fair Share Act restore balance, while maintaining extra protections for victims in the egregious situations outlined above.

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