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Pickett Endorses Job Creation Legislation

HARRISBURG – Legislation that seeks to make Pennsylvania more competitive when it comes to job creation cleared the House today, said Rep. Tina Pickett (R-Bradford/Sullivan/ Susquehanna), a co-sponsor of the proposal.


“Most business owners know that Pennsylvania has one of the most unfriendly job climates in the nation, and that is due in part by our unfair liability laws,” Pickett said. “Because of a law called joint and several liability, a defendant can be forced to pay 100 percent of the damages in a civil lawsuit, even if found only 1 percent at fault. This encourages trial lawyers to go after deep pockets and the costs of such lawsuits are passed onto both consumers and taxpayers. This is unfair and needs to be changed.”


Under House Bill 1, also known as the Fair Share Act, a defendant will be held responsible only for his or her proportionate share of the total damages awarded to compensate a plaintiff.  Pennsylvania is one of only eight states that does not have a proportional liability law.


According to Pickett, a former small business owner, lawsuit abuse reform can significantly reduce the cost of doing business within the Commonwealth and allow businesses to create jobs.  Without lawsuit abuse reform, consumers are penalized through increased prices from higher insurance rates to the cost of consumer goods, inflated health care costs and high malpractice insurance rates. It can also result in reduced access to critical professional services, fewer jobs and fewer product innovations.


“House Bill 1 is one of many proposals we’re working on this spring to bring fairness, common sense and stability back to our legal system,” Pickett said. “These lawsuit abuse reform measures can benefit both large and small businesses, taxpayers, consumers, doctors and health care professionals and insurance companies, as well as citizens with legitimate lawsuits by unclogging the court system of frivolous lawsuits.”


The cost for a business owner to defend a lawsuit can run as much as $100,000, and the cost to defend even one lawsuit can force a typical small business owner into bankruptcy. In fact, according to the National Federation of Independent Businesses, almost half of small business owners/managers have been threatened with an actual lawsuit. Three in four business owners reported the threats added time and expense to their business operations.


Further, two-thirds of small business owners say they make business decisions to avoid lawsuits, 23 percent say those decisions have forced them to cut employee benefits, and 11 percent say those decisions have forced them to lay off employees. 


“Our intent with this legislation is not to prevent someone who has suffered a loss from seeking damages in the civil court system. If an individual has been wronged, that’s why we have the justice system. We are just preventing trial lawyers – who take between 30 percent and 40 percent from their clients – from manipulating the system,” she said.


The legislation now goes to the Senate for consideration. Gov. Tom Corbett has indicated he will sign the bill if it reaches his desk. The legislation also has the support of more than 40 organizations representing thousands of businesses, local governments, hospitals and medical professionals.


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State Representative Tina Pickett

110th District, Pennsylvania House of Representatives

Contact: Jennifer Keaton


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