PA House boss: Stopping lawsuits is Job One

"Commonsense lawsuit abuse reform tops the House agenda," writes PA GOP House leader Mike Turzai. He plans a vote next week on House Bill 1, dubbed the Fair Share Act, is the latest attempt to curtail "joint and several liablility."

That's the doctrine which, for example, can make Chevron or gasfield drillers liable for damage at Pennsylvania landfills, even if the local out-of-business body shop dumped as much or more at the same location - or some intermediate hauling firm did the actual dumping.

Gov. Mark Schweiker failed to end joint-and-several in 2002, when the Supreme Court voided an earlier version of the law "on technical grounds." Gov. Rendell "broke his promise" to sign a version in 2006, Tuzai laments.

But Republicans are in charge on all levels this time, and they plan to change what Turzai calls a "system (that) encourages lawsuits; rewards a plaintiff’s attorney for taking a ‘shotgun’ approach to suing, firing lawsuits in every direction instead of focusing on the defendant truly at fault; and discourages reasonable settlements as the lawyer pursues the defendant with the ‘deep pockets.’ "

Turzai blames the threat of lawsuits against business for PA's persistent industiral unemployment. He promises the end of "frivilous lawsuits" will aid "the medical profession, business development and job growth."

Can the Philadelphia plaintiff's bar stop the law-reform train this time?