Under Pennsylvania law, a plaintiff must prove the following to establish negligence: (1) a duty owed by the defendant to the plaintiff; (2) breach of that duty by the defendant; (3) the defendant’s breach of duty was the proximate cause of injury to the plaintiff; and (4) the plaintiff suffered damages as a result.
Modified Comparative Negligence
The law in Pennsylvania (Per Pa.C.S. § 7202) states that a plaintiff is able to recover for a personal injury caused by the negligent actions of another as long as the plaintiff was 50% or less at fault for the injury. If this is the case, the plaintiff’s damage award will be reduced in proportion to the percentage of fault assigned to the plaintiff, if any.
For example, if a jury returns a damage award in favor of the plaintiff in the amount of $100,000 but attributed 20% of fault to the plaintiff for their injury, the plaintiff would be able to recover $80,000 of the $100,000 award.
If the plaintiff is found to have been 51% or more at fault, the plaintiff will be barred from recovery.
Joint & Several Liability
Pa.C.S. § 8324 states that Pennsylvania holds joint tortfeasors in a negligence action jointly and severally liable for injuries caused. This means that in an action where multiple defendants are found to have been liable for a plaintiff’s injury, all parties are potentially fully responsible for paying the damages awarded. For example, if a jury finds that Defendant A was 1% responsible for the plaintiff’s injury and Defendant B was 99% responsible, the plaintiff has the right to collect the full amount of damages from Defendant A, despite the fact that they were found to have only been 1% responsible. This method of recovery protects the plaintiff in the event that one or more parties to the lawsuit are found to be insolvent.
However, where one defendant has paid more than its proportional share of liability that defendant has the right to seek contribution against any other joint defendant who has not paid its proportional share.
Compensatory damages are awarded by a court to compensate the plaintiff for injuries suffered as a result of the negligence of the defendant(s). The award is meant to restore the plaintiff – as much as possible – to the condition they were in prior to the injury occurring.
Compensatory damages include reasonable expenses necessary for medical care; hospitalization and treatment; economic loss from loss of income (both past and future); pain and suffering; disability; disfigurement; and mental anguish.
Punitive damages are meant to punish a defendant rather than to compensate the plaintiff.
In Pennsylvania, in seeking punitive damages, the court will permit evidence to show that a negligent defendant’s actions went beyond a mere lack of care, and into the realm of intentional and outrageous conduct. Therefore, punitive damages may be awarded only where it is shown that the defendant acted with an evil motive, or in conscious disregard of, or indifference to, a high degree of risk of physical harm to another.
The law firm of Walker Morgan is located at 135 E Main St., Lexington, SC 29072. All lawyers at Walker Morgan are licensed to practice law in the State of South Carolina. Should you wish to retain our firm for legal representation regarding a potential case in any other jurisdiction we are required to associate local counsel in that foreign jurisdiction and seek permission from a court of the foreign jurisdiction to temporarily engage in the practice of law therein for purposes of pursuing your potential claim only.
By offering the following information the lawyers at Walker Morgan are not offering legal advice or legal guidance. The lawyers at Walker Morgan are not licensed to practice law in Pennsylvania. Should you have a question/concern specific to Pennsylvania law, please contact an attorney licensed to practice law in the State of Pennsylvania.