COMPREHENSIVE LEGAL REFORM
To be competitive, Pennsylvania must enact reforms to make the state's legal system fair, predictable, and even-handed. Pennsylvania’s business community encourages the following steps:
Enact Product Liability Verification
The business community supports a measure that would require plaintiffs to obtain verification from a licensed professional that a product is defective and has caused injury before the start of a product liability action. The measure would be similar to “certificate of merit” that the General Assembly requires plaintiffs to obtain before proceeding with a medical malpractice suit. Just as in medical malpractice lawsuits, the product liability verification is expected to reduce the number of frivolous lawsuits filed.
Establish Statute of Repose in Product Liability Actions
Too many product liability suits are brought many years after a product was manufactured and worked without incident. This leads to unfairness, difficulties in defense and higher insurance costs for all of us. The business community supports legislation that would establish a 15-year time limit (statute of repose) for most products. Specifically exempted are actions alleging a physical illness the evidence of which did not appear in less than 15 years after the first exposure to the product.
Limit False Claims
The Federal False Claims Act (FCA) originally was adopted to allow private citizens to file a cause of action if they believed the government was being defrauded by a government contractor. In 2005, as part of the federal Deficit Reduction Act (DRA), language was inserted that created the appearance of an additional 10 percent incentive to states that adopt their own false claims statutes on top of the existing FCA. However, what the trial lawyers created was a new venue for existing false claims, whereby they and their clients could recover more money at the expense of the states. The business community does not support a proposal that would alter the scheme established by the Federal civil FCA in significant ways that favor whistleblower attorneys and their clients.
Protect Innocent Sellers
The business community supports legislation that provides reasonable protections for retailers who unknowingly sell a defective product. Sellers, who are not manufacturers, are too often sued simply because they passed along an alleged defective product in the stream of commerce. This is unfair and the costs of litigation are passed on to all of us in the form of higher prices. Legislation needs to ensure that retailers who do not alter a product are not liable if a product is defective.
Limit “Venue Shopping”
Until venue reform was addressed with the enactment of the MCare Act in 2002, the medical community was plagued for years by suits that hauled defendants into Philadelphia courts when there was no legitimate reason to do so. Pennsylvania's businesses suffer in the same climate. Many employers have found themselves in Philadelphia Common Pleas Court (described in publications as a "judicial hell hole" because defendants are regularly forced to pay much higher verdicts than elsewhere) for specious reasons. Therefore, the business community supports broad-based legislation that prohibits filing cases in jurisdictions that have little or no relation to the defendant or the act giving rise to the cause of action.
HB 1976: Providing for venue in personal injury actions against corporations and similar entities.
Balance Food Purveyors Liability
Food producers, particularly fast food operations, are finding that they are increasingly being targeted by the plaintiffs bar seeking damages for individuals' obesity, weight gain, or health conditions related to obesity as a result of food consumption. We need legislation that finds the appropriate balance between knowingly selling products deemed to be harmful and personal responsibility for healthy lifestyles.
Limitations on Non-Economic Damages
The business community supports an amendment to Pennsylvania’s Constitution to give the Legislature the authority to establish reasonable controls for non-economic damages. Damages for non-economic losses (i.e., pain and suffering, emotional distress, loss of consortium or companionship, and other intangible injuries) involve no direct economic loss and therefore have no precise value. In order to amend the Pennsylvania Constitution, the citizens of the Commonwealth must decide at the polls whether to allow the General Assembly to have the same authority that 46 other state legislatures possess. Then, and only then, limits, guidelines or caps can be debated by the General Assembly as a method to control unreasonable jury awards.
HB 301: Constitutional amendment limiting non-economic damages
PA Competitiveness with Sen. Mike Regan
The goal of Pennsylvania policymakers should be to make it the smart business decision for employers to locate, expand, and hire here in this commonwealth rather than in one of our competitor states. Likewise, the goal of federal policymakers ought to be to optimize conditions for economic growth in the United States so American businesses can compete worldwide. This means we must restrain state spending, enact pro-growth business tax relief, provide limits on lawsuit abuse, improve the regulatory climate, and ensure we have a trained workforce. Our state government cannot tax-and-spend the way to good fortune for all; but we can grow the private sector by attracting new business investments and expanding the tax base, then prosperity will surely follow.
PENNSYLVANIA GOVERNMENT 101
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