Tort Reform Legislation

Background:

Efforts to reform the product liability law in Pennsylvania have been ongoing for years. The basis of the product liability law began in the late 1950’s and early 1960’s. This law in particular was created by the judiciary, rather than by legislation. Lawsuits relating to bodily injury and property damage have plagued businesses throughout the country.

The original intent of tort law was to protect people injured through no fault of their own by compensating them for their injuries. Pennsylvania courts, however, have gone further with anti-business decisions than courts in many other states. Many states have passes reform statutes that moderate excesses of the judicially created standards, specifically addressing punitive damages, comparative fault, and joint and several liability issues. Pennsylvania law, as a result, is unusually adverse to a healthy business climate.

Lancaster Chamber Recommendations

The Lancaster Chamber of Commerce & Industry believes that new legislation is needed that creates uniform product liability standards enabling manufacturers, product liability standards enabling manufacturers, product sellers, and consumers to better their legal rights and obligations.

Tort reform, specifically, is an area that Pennsylvania should act on to improve the business climate. To address this issue The Lancaster Chamber will form a task force on tort reform as a high priority issue in 1996. The task force will review the most important aspects of reform that affects the Lancaster business community.

This may be the best climate for real change in the last ten years. The Ridge administration and the House and Senate are interested in tort reform. Given this momentum for change, and the importance of the issue to Lancaster Chamber members, we will advocate for serious reform on this issue. The Pennsylvania Chamber of Business & Industry is also supporting reform.

There is also the possibility for passage of a federal statute which would pre-empt state law in many areas. The U.S. House and Senate have been far apart on their versions, but recent information makes compromise a possibility. Passage of a federal law could lead to substantial change on the state level of this issue. The Lancaster Chamber supports a national law as well.

Approved by the Board of Directors January 15, 1996

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