The Alliance of American Insurers called a bill signed into law by Pennsylvania Gov. Mark Schweiker (R) Oct. 17 a “huge victory” in the fight to reel in runaway malpractice awards.
The bill (SB 138), which passed the legislature last week, would limit forum shopping by requiring that medical malpractice lawsuits be tried only in the county where the alleged malpractice took place. The Philadelphia area had reportedly become a popular forum for medical malpractice suits because jury awards tended to be higher in cases tried in that county.
“This law is a huge victory that will help reduce the costs of malpractice lawsuits and help ensure that medical providers continue to practice in the state,” Sarah White, Alliance property/casualty policy manager, commented. However, she noted that, “more reforms are necessary to make Pennsylvania a more favorable environment.”
SB 138, also known as Act 13, builds upon a law passed this past March, HB 1802, which shortened the statute of limitations for medical malpractice claims, provided for possible privatization of the MedCAT fund and implemented patient safety requirements.
“The potential for meaningful medical malpractice reform in Pennsylvania remains high,” Neil Malady, regional manager of the Alliance’s Mid-Atlantic Region, added. “Gov. Schweiker continues to push for meaningful reform, and is considering a special session after the elections to address the medical malpractice crisis.”
The Alliance says it continues to work toward reform in Pennsylvania and other states, supporting tort reform measures designed to reduce the astronomical costs of lawsuits, including caps on non-economic damages.
Pennsylvania isn’t the only state to have acted recently on this matter.
Mississippi recently enacted a cap on non-economic damages, a prohibition on forum shopping and restrictions on joint-and-several liability, while Nevada enacted several reforms last month. In addition, Florida’s House of Representatives has established a Medical Liability Insurance Workgroup that will meet Oct. 21 and Missouri will hold a public hearing Oct. 30 to probe the reasons behind medical malpractice insurance rate increases.
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