Pennsylvania venue shopping leads to looming liability crisis

A growing number of physicians and access to care advocates are joining together to warn of a looming liability crisis resulting from venue shopping and medical lawsuit abuse in Pennsylvania.

Over the past 20 years, physicians gave medical liability issues little thought, as the climate across the state was quiet.

That changed in January 2023, when the state Supreme Court eliminated the requirement that medical liability cases can only be filed where the alleged negligence occurred, allowing plaintiffs to file claims where the defendant has a business interest or where they can be served.

This led to a shift in cases from suburban counties to more plaintiff friendly juries in Philadelphia County. As a result, the 1st Judicial District in Philadelphia reported that 2023 medical liability lawsuits have doubled in Philadelphia County over the 2022 level under these new venue shopping rules.

“We call on the General Assembly and Governor Shapiro to act now before Pennsylvania’s health care delivery system is engulfed by skyrocketing medical liability insurance costs, which will lead to diminished patient care as it did 20 years ago,” said York County physician Suzette Song, in a Medical Liability Reform press conference in the State Capitol Rotunda.

The group is pushing for reforms to Pennsylvania’s Certificate of Merit practice and the creation of an Interbranch Commission on Venue to study the impact of the new venue rules. Both initiatives would not only create efficiencies, but also reduce medical lawsuit abuse to ensure the liability system works for all patients.

Former PA Ortho President Matthew Kelly, MD, of Camp Hill’s Orthopedic Institute of Pennsylvania said the Pennsylvania Orthopedic Society and other medical professional organizations wish to maintain access to legal recourse for deserving patients, but “we merely want that redress to be in the county of the alleged injury,” said Kelly.

To read more about the changes that must be made to Pennsylvania’s liability system to avert another crisis, click here.


History made: Texas Medical Association’s legacy of advocacy

The Texas Medical Association has played an active role in Texas and national medical history, and with roots dating back 171 years has led advocacy efforts to improve the state’s liability climate.

A history piece in this month’s edition of Texas Medicine highlights several milestones in TMA’s history that have improved access to care across the state.

Going back to 1979, the Texas Medical Liability Trust (TMLT) began because of the mass exodus of the state’s providers and has offered TMA members a physician-focused model of liability insurance. Today, TMLT is the largest medical liability insurance provider in Texas, with more than 20,000 policyholders.

 Fast forward to 2003 when there were no reasonable limits on noneconomic damages, leading to an unsustainable surge in medical liability lawsuits. This drove physicians out of the state, leaving patients in some areas without medical care.

In response, physicians, supported by the Texas Medical Association and a coalition of advocates, successfully lobbied for comprehensive medical liability reform during the 2003 legislative session, and voters approved a constitutional amendment to safeguard those reforms.

These changes curbed meritless legal actions against doctors, brought physicians back to the state, improved patient access to medical care, and solidified Texas’ legacy of physician advocacy.

To read more about the Texas Medical Association’s legacy of advocacy across the state and the nation, click here.


Colorado liability limits to expand in coming years

In an agreement between personal injury lawyers and physician advocates to avoid competing ballot initiatives, a bill was signed into law earlier this month in Colorado to increase limits on noneconomic damages in medical liability cases.

Initially, lawyers pushed for a ballot measure to eliminate reasonable limits on noneconomic damages in their entirety – a development that would be troubling for patients, threatening their access to care. In response, some opposing groups advanced a ballot measure that would have limited attorneys’ fees in medical liability cases.

The groups were able to come together to negotiate a compromise, maintaining the integrity of the medical liability system and increasing limits on noneconomic damages from $300,000 to $875,000 over the next several years.

Unfortunately, the same law also expands the state’s wrongful death limits, allowing siblings to file wrongful death suits on behalf of their deceased relatives in certain instances.

Dropping the ballot measure that would put elimination of limits on noneconomic damages to a vote highlights the continued understanding that such limits play a critical role in mitigating medical lawsuit abuse and keep a functioning liability system for patients and physicians.

To read more about Colorado’s increase in liability limits, click here.