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Pennsylvania's passage of the Fair Share Act is an important first step toward reforming the state's legal climate, and one that will make the state more competitive.

Thomas L. VanKirk, Buchanan Ingersoll & Rooney's chairman, explained the change to the Philadelphia Business Journal and various other media.

"The legislation says that, from now on, liability shall be several — but not joint — where the defendant's liability for the damage or loss is less than 60 percent of the total liability of all defendants, except under four exempted circumstances," he said.

"This means that a defendant who bears the preponderance of responsibility can still be held jointly liable, but parties who bear little or only partial responsibility for an injury or loss could be held to pay no more than their proportional share of the judgment."

"The Fair Share Act makes civil lawsuits fair and more predictable," VanKirk said. Under the previous law, an individual who was only somewhat responsible for injury or loss could be held wholly liable for damages. As a result, defendants often settled out rather than litigate.

"Even if they win, a defendant can spend huge sums on legal fees defending themselves," said VanKirk, "so they are apt to settle as the lower cost alternative," he explained.