A fair and equitable system of civil justice is essential to the proper functioning of a free market economy. By permitting legitimate disputes to be resolved in a fair and efficient manner, it allows for a full and timely compensation of parties legitimately injured; gives parties predictability and certainty; and contributes to greater productivity and economic prosperity. An unbalanced litigation environment can cause serious dislocations with significant economic implications such as reduced investment, increased costs, job loss and improper shift of costs to taxpayers.
Despite the enactment of some reform, the Commonwealth has consistently ranked near the bottom of various studies of states' liability climates. In order to boost the economy and create more private sector jobs, we need to inject fairness, common sense and personal responsibility into our courts by continuing to reform our antiquated legal system.
The current construct of the Commonwealth's judicial system creates an environment that can lead to inefficient and biased justice. In order to achieve this, certain structural reforms to the system and changes to the Pennsylvania Constitution should be implemented. These changes include:
- Creating specialized business courts similar to Delaware with authority to preside over various types of business disputes thereby facilitating more timely and expeditious resolutions; and
- Providing for the merit-based appointment, rather than the political election, of all judges to courts with appellate jurisdiction in the Commonwealth.
In addition to these structural reforms, the PA Chamber supports amending existing law or creating a new law to:
- Ensure that complaints are adjudicated in venues that have the closest nexus to the injury or dispute;
- Provide reasonable limitations for businesses who unknowingly sell a defective product and did not manufacture that product;
- Give the legislature the authority to establish reasonable controls for non-economic damages and caps on attorney fees in liability cases;
- Provide for a statute of repose in actions to recover damages for death, injury to persons or property or economic loss resulting from a defective product;
- Set stricter standards for the imposition of punitive damages and limiting the total amount of punitive damages that may be awarded without taking away the ability to assess punitive damages on those who deserve to be punished;
- Require plaintiffs filing a product liability action to include with the complaint a certificate of merit containing an expert opinion from a licensed professional that there exists a reasonable probability that the product in question is defective and such defective state, quality or condition was a proximate cause in bringing about harm to the plaintiff;
- Set forth reasonable standards and fees for when the government hires outside contingency fee counsel;
- Bring about more transparency between the asbestos bankruptcy trust and tort compensation systems;
- Set forth reasonable controls on contingency fees to ensure that the injured victims receive compensation commensurate with their injuries;
- Institute a reasonable cap on the total amount of security required on appeal; and
- Discourage the expansion of third-party litigation financing and lawsuit lending.
The business community opposes efforts that would:
- Alter the methodology established by the federal civil False Claims Act in significant ways that would decrease the Commonwealth's share of the award;
- Allow juries, not judges, to decide insurance bad faith cases thereby ruling on damages, attorney fees and costs and interest;
- Expand the types of damages that can be recovered and the persons who can sue to recover them;
- Create a state antitrust statute that would add new causes of actions at the state level.