On June 28, Governor Tom Corbett (PA) signed into law Senate Bill 1131, better known as the “Fair Share Act.’’ The law reforms how damages are recovered in civil lawsuits. It ensures that defendants are responsible for only their fair share of damages in a case. The Governor believes the Fair Share Act will make Pennsylvania more business friendly, encouraging companies to move to, grow, and stay in Pennsylvania.
The Fair Share Act might be a win for businesses and the insurance industry, but is it fair for an injured or wrongful death victim seeking justice after being seriously injured, maimed, disabled, or losing a loved one? A person can be hurt, changing their quality of life, forever, but as long as big business is happy, so is Pennsylvania, really? Is that what it has come down to in the debate over civil justice?
While everyone is entitled to their opinion, here is the truth. Damages caps on personal injury recoveries do nothing to improve the economy. These artificial, unfair, caps are welfare for wealthy corporations at the expense of taxpayers. They, simply, shift the burden of taking care of the injured and disabled from the wrongdoers to the taxpayers. Will this create new jobs? Will it lower insurance premiums? Will it boost the economy? Has it ever done any of these things? The answer to these questions is a resounding “NO”! Endlessly repeating that so-called tort reform will create jobs does not make it true. Here’s what is true: Political campaigns are, in today’s political climate, substantially funded by corporate interests. As a result, your elected officials care less about making their individual citizens happy and more about making corporate America happy. CEO’s: Keep that campaign money coming!
Taking away the rights of the most seriously injured has been, and continues to be, failed policy. It is also an inhuman, morally corrupt, policy. Corporate immunity is not the solution, nor is it a “one-size-fits-all” justice system. The better solution for our citizenry (remember them, Governor Corbett?) is to hold businesses accountable for its own negligence. The threat of lawsuits and lawsuit recoveries increase safety. The motivation should be safety improvement to reduce lawsuits, not lawsuit reduction with any corresponding benefit to society. Don’t fix the problem, just avoid its consequences; is that really what our elected officials want?
The objective should be to deter unsafe and substandard products and practices while safeguarding the rights of all citizens. Lawsuits are the only way to stop the insurance industry from abusing its economic power. Medical malpractice reform should be about reducing the epidemic of medical errors or instituting safety measures to reduce injuries, deaths, and lawsuits, not making it more difficult for patients injured by medical negligence to be compensated. When will we start protecting citizens against oil spills, tainted products from China, defective products by auto manufacturers, and more? Unfortunately, most people don’t learn the detrimental effects of tort reform until they are on the receiving end of a life-altering injury from someone else’s negligence.
Tort reform immunizes bad corporate behavior; capping serious damage levels does nothing to prevent what the tort reformers call “frivolous lawsuits”. These frauds don’t care a hoot about “frivolous lawsuits”; they want to prevent seriously injured, seriously disabled, or dead victims and their families from recovering just compensation in serious lawsuits; real lawsuits about dangerous and defective conduct and/or products that put all of us at risk. These corporate types want the right to self-determination in litigation; they want the right to take away our 7th Amendment rights to jury trials in civil actions. They want to substitute their own judgments, through corporate campaign contributions, for the judgments of juries across America. And we, the people, stand idly by and let them do it, state after state.
Some elements of “fair share” are…well…fair. It is not my most hated form of tort reform. However, between a corporate interest paying a little more than its fair share or a severely injured person receiving less, America should always be on the side of justice for the least fortunate. All parties are equal in front of a jury; it is the only place in our justice system where total equality exists. Both sides have the same persuasive access to the jury. Isn’t that also fair? Why does industry need additional legislative assistance? Frivolous lawsuits don’t need a cap, and legitimate ones should not be capped leaving the taxpayer responsible for the uncompensated difference. We need to stop trampling on the 7th Amendment and other precious constitutional rights. Our system of justice depends on it.
Mark Bello has thirty-three years experience as a trial lawyer and twelve years as an underwriter and situational analyst in the lawsuit funding industry. He is the owner and founder of Lawsuit Financial Corporation which helps provide legal finance cash flow solutions and consulting when necessities of life litigation funding is needed by plaintiffs involved in pending, personal injury litigation. Bello is a Justice Pac member of the American Association for Justice, Sustaining and Justice Pac member of the Michigan Association for Justice, Business Associate of the Florida, Tennessee, and Colorado Associations for Justice, a member of the American Bar Association as well as their ABA Advisory Committee, the State Bar of Michigan and the Injury Board.
Attorney, certified civil mediator, and award-winning author of the Zachary Blake Betrayal Series. Mark Bello is also a member of the State Bar of Michigan, a sustaining member of the Michigan Association for Justice, and a member of the American Association for Justice.