Pennsylvania Gov. Mark Schweiker is expected to sign a bill passed by the state General Assembly reforming medical malpractice in the state, according to the American Insurance Association (AIA).
Under SB 138, medical malpractice lawsuits could only be tried in the county or “venue” where the malpractice took place. Venue shopping is a tactic used by attorneys and plaintiffs looking for a more lucrative court system with a history of large jury awards.
“This is a positive step forward in the battle against lawsuit abuse directed at Pennsylvania’s healthcare community,” said R. Taylor Cosby, AIA vice president, Mid-Atlantic region. “With further reform, Pennsylvania can ensure that quality healthcare is available to its citizens.”
Pennsylvania continues to lose physicians due to the increasing severity of medical malpractice lawsuits. As a result of exorbitant jury verdicts and frivolous lawsuits, some physicians and other healthcare providers have been forced to leave the profession or the state.
The House approved SB 138 Oct. 8 and the Senate concurred Oct. 9. Gov. Schweiker will undoubtedly sign the bill as he has been leading the reform effort. Earlier this year, Schweiker enacted Act 13 which included several tort reform provisions. “The legislators are moving in the right direction, but more needs to be done,” concluded Cosby.
AIA supports the medical community’s push for a cap on non-economic damages. Another bill, HB 2850, has been introduced to lower the mandatory amount of coverage required from $1 million to $250,000 and to use tobacco money to pay off the Medical Professional Liability Catastrophe Loss Fund (CAT fund) deficit. There will likely be a special legislative session in Pennsylvania this year to address the medical malpractice crisis.