Penn. Lawmakers to Push Med Mal Reform

January 28, 2002

Tort reforms affecting Pennsylvania medical malpractice recoveries will apparently be receiving top priority from some of the State’s legislators, as they seek solutions to the current crisis in physicians’ and health care workers’ malpractice coverage. (See IJ Website Jan. 22,11, 3 and Dec. 31, 27)

Maybe the demonstrations by doctors and patients, and the urgings from Governor Mark Schweiker and Insurance Commissioner Diane Koken have spurred the legislators to action. Numerous instances of excessive recoveries for alleged medical malpractice have also been sited by the medical community as evidence of the need for reform.

An article in the Allentown Morning Call details the commitment of local Congressman, Pat Toomey (Rep.-PA) and four state legislators to changing the law in the face of rapidly rising malpractice awards and the consequent precipitous rise in insurance premiums.

Toomey supports legislation aiming to end “joint and several” liability, which allows claimants to name as defendants those who may have been only peripherally involved in the alleged negligent occurrence. He also called for limits on “non-economic” damages for pain and suffering to be capped at $250,000, and for similar limits on punitive damages and lawyers’ contingency fees.

Pennsylvania’s trial lawyers have opposed such reforms in the past, claiming that they are not needed to protect non-negligent doctors and unfairly curtail victims of medical malpractice from seeking adequate recovery for their injuries. Several previous attempts at limiting damage awards have been held unconstitutional by the State’s Supreme Court.

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