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Attorney Michelle QuinnA tort is civil wrong for which a remedy may be obtained, usually in the form of damages.

Tortious conduct could be an act or a failure to act. The purpose of tort law is to compensate the harmed individual and, in some cases, enjoin continuing misconduct.

Torts fall into three categories: intentional torts, negligence, and strict liability. Examples of the first category include defamation, fraud and intentional infliction of emotional distress.

Vehicle accidents, slip and fall accidents and medical malpractice are examples of negligence. Defective product cases fall under strict liability. In these cases, the injured consumer only has to establish that their injuries were directly caused by the defective product in question.

In order to be awarded compensation, the plaintiff must prove that the defendant breached a legal responsibility called the duty of care, resulting in physical, emotional, and/or financial harm. In a tort case, the plaintiff must prove his or her case by a “preponderance of the evidence,” which is defined as “that degree of proof which is more probable than not.” This degree of proof is lower than that of a criminal case where “guilt must be established beyond a reasonable doubt.”

Tort cases were being pursued in US courts in the 1920s. But the Tort Revolution didn’t take place until after World War II. It was fueled by expanded liability, particularly in the areas of defective products, medical malpractice and landowner liability.

The Tort Revolution gave rise to a counter-revolution, with the insurance industry leading the charge. Knowing that insurers would ultimately be held responsible for compensating personal injury victims, the industry unleashed an aggressive public relations campaign.

Tort reform begins

Eventually big business joined the “tort reform” movement. One of their main tactics is to promote legislation that imposes caps on damages. Tort reform often takes the form of restrictive statutes of limitation. In many states, the statute of limitations for medical malpractice is two years. Trouble is, in some cases, the effects of the malpractice may not manifest themselves for several years. By this time, the statute of limitations may have expired.

Another serious concern about tort reform is that if there are fewer legal ramifications for manufacturing an unsafe product, corporations would be less concerned about the safety of products entering the marketplace.

“Tort reform” can often amount to “rights repeal”. A recent Ohio Supreme Court case demonstrates that. The state’s highest court ruled that a girl raped by her pastor during a counseling session at an Ohio church can collect only $250,000 in damages -- not the jury's award of $3.5 million. The ruling was based on caps on non-economic damages enacted by Ohio lawmakers.

In a scathing dissent, Justice Paul E. Pfeifer wrote that tort reform had “ensured that rapists and those who enable them will not have to pay the full measure of damages they cause”. In the process, the victim was deprived of adequate compensation for a lifetime of mental trauma.

Pennsylvania does not impose caps on compensatory damages for injury or wrongful death cases – the Pennsylvania Constitution prohibits that. (There is an exception for lawsuits against Commonwealth parties.) There is a two-year statute of limitations for personal injury, medical malpractice, product liability and intentional tort lawsuits in Pennsylvania. However, in Pennsylvania medical malpractice cases, when the link between conduct and injury is not clear, the “discovery rule” applies extending the statute of limitations to two years from the time the plaintiff knew or should have known that malpractice occurred.

At the federal level, Congress has debated federal legislation that would override virtually all existing state laws governing medical malpractice lawsuits. The current environment may foster a renewed push for national tort reform under the guise of “fixing” the health care system. Proponents of tort reform argue that the high awards and settlements involved in malpractice cases are a prime reason for the high cost of health care. According to research of the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office, however, a package of reform that includes a $250,000 cap on damages for pain and suffering and a $500,000 cap on punitive damages would reduce total national health care spending by only about 0.5 percent.

At HKQ Law, we encourage you to fight to protect your rights by contacting your legislators and opposing additional tort reform.

About HKQ Law

Hourigan, Kluger & Quinn is considered one of the top civil litigation and commercial law firms that has had the privilege of representing more families in the courtroom than any other NEPA firm. The attorneys at HKQ Law have been honored as Super Lawyers, Best Lawyers, Best Law Firms by US News and World Report, and have received the AV Preeminent Rating by Martindale-Hubbel. HKQ Law was recently recognized for one of the top 20 Verdicts in Pennsylvania.

The firm’s Personal Injury Team, led by Attorney Joe Quinn, Jr., has won some of the largest verdicts and settlements in the region's history. The Personal Injury Team focuses on a wide array of personal injury claims and civil litigation, including medical malpractice, auto and truck accidents, aviation accidents, unsafe vehicles, dangerous or defective products, workplace injuries (worker's compensation), construction site accidents, claim denials by insurance companies, dangerous drugs, defective children's products, nursing home abuse and neglect, and falls due to unsafe conditions (slip and fall).

Attorney Joseph A Quinn, Jr. is one of only 100 attorneys in the United States (and one of only three in Pennsylvania) honored with membership in the Inner Circle of Trial Advocates, and one of only 500 attorneys worldwide chosen to be a Fellow of the International Academy of Trial Lawyers. He has been a Pennsylvania Super Lawyer every year since the program began and has been listed in The Best Lawyers in America every year since the publication was established in 1987. Best Lawyers also named him top personal injury attorney for Northeastern Pennsylvania and the Lehigh Valley. In addition, Best Lawyers, in conjunction with U.S. News & World Report, has designated HKQ a Tier 1 Best Law Firm across multiple categories in Northeastern Pennsylvania and the Lehigh Valley.

Since the inception of the firm, the Commercial / Corporate Team led by Attorney Allan Kluger has provided comprehensive, integrated legal services to many of Northeastern and Eastern Pennsylvania's largest corporations, businesses, banks, non-profits and institutions, handling matters involving labor and employment, wills, trusts and estate planning, estate administration, elder law, commercial transactions, residential and commercial real estate, zoning, land use and development, telecommunications, mediations and arbitrations, commercial litigation, title insurance, business planning and business succession, corporate/business structuring, employment discrimination law for employers, banking, creditor’s rights, finance, lender liability defense, covenants not to compete, construction law, mergers and acquisitions and other business matters.

Additional information can be found at or by calling (800) 760-1529.



As Hourigan, Kluger and Quinn addresses the concerns raised by COVID-19, the health and safety of our clients, employees and friends of the firm remain our top priority.

These are very difficult and scary times and we hope that you and your loved ones are safe and symptom free. We recognize that so many of you are understandably anxious about your health, the economic impact of this pandemic and all of the consequences of social isolation.

We also recognize that many of you are anxious about how the coronavirus is impacting the Court systems, our firm and your cases. Although all of our offices are closed, our firm has remained fully operational and we have initiated procedures that allow all of our attorneys and staff to work remotely from their homes. Each of us and our staff will respond to any emails and calls about your cases as quickly as possible.

Our Federal and State Courts have instituted significant changes in their calendars as a result of the coronavirus. Although most courthouses are closed to the public, and Hearings and Trials will be delayed for some time, there are matters that can proceed telephonically and by video. Despite these changes in the Court calendars, we are working diligently on your cases and are determined to do whatever we possibly can to assure an early and just recovery for you and your loved ones. Even under these difficult circumstances, we believe that "Nobody will work harder for you than we will."

With regard to new potential clients, we are not in a position to have an in-person new client meeting, but we will be conducting these initial meetings via phone. New potential clients should call us for a free telephone consultation at (570) 287-3000.


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