Bad examples: New York, Pennsylvania lead national liability rates

Without reform to keep medical lawsuit abuse in check, examples of the inefficiencies of our nation’s liability system are emerging in several states in the form of increasingly large payouts.
According to a recent survey by Diederich Health Care, a medical liability insurance and consulting company, New York topped the list for the largest liability payouts in 2017 with a total of nearly $618 million, with Pennsylvania second at $342 million and Illinois not far behind with $301 million.
What do these states have in common? None have reasonable limits on non-economic damages in place, with liability climates that have worsened in recent years due to lawmakers who are more likely to push for changes that benefit personal injury attorneys rather than patients.
In New York, 30,000 members of the Medical Society of the State of New York opposed extending the state’s statute of limitations on liability claims because it would increase their already high liability costs and drive more doctors out of the state. Unfortunately, the law passed, lengthening the statute of limitations from 15 to 30 months, beginning not when the error occurred, but the date at which the patient found out about the error.
In Pennsylvania, silence on the liability legislation front has led to court rulings that increase medical lawsuit abuse.
“Plaintiff attorneys will go to great lengths to have their case tried in the high-verdict jurisdiction of Philadelphia,” said Curt Schroder, executive director of the Pennsylvania Coalition for Civil Justice Reform. “A recent Superior Court decision found venue in Philadelphia even though the patient was in a Berks County hospital (67 miles away).”
These recent decisions undermine physicians’ treatment decisions and ultimately leave patients with fewer options and higher cost of care. To read more about the latest report detailing rising liability payouts, click here.

Kentucky Senate votes to advance liability reforms

Pushing liability reform as a priority this session, the Kentucky Senate has moved quickly to implement several reforms that would benefit patients and their providers.
Included in Senate Bill 20 are provisions that limit the fees of personal injury attorneys in favor of deserving patients, give physicians the ability to make statements of sympathy, and require affidavits of merit to ensure only legitimate claims move forward.
The bill builds upon reforms passed in 2017 that created medical review panels, with panel rulings in favor of the patient fulfilling the affidavit of merit requirement.
Coming out in support of the provisions that limit attorneys’ fees to one-third of an award meant for a victim of medical negligence was Sen. Ralph Alvarado, R-Winchester, who introduced the bill and stated that “…it is a protection against predatory legal practices in Kentucky.”
Senate passage brought the bill one step closer to bringing fairness and efficiency to Kentucky’s medical liability system, and the legislation now moves on to the state House for a vote.
To read more about the bill under consideration in Kentucky, click here.

Liability legislation aims to increase access to care in Wyoming

A bill under consideration in Wyoming aims to increase care to the state’s low-income and rural residents by increasing the number of volunteer providers – and protecting them from meritless lawsuits.
The bill would allow the Wyoming Department of Health to contract with volunteer health providers and facilities to make them state employees, providing liability insurance in exchange for offering care to low-income patients.
The liability of volunteer physicians has been a concern of the medical community, said Stefan Johansson, the policy administrators for the health department, with a state legislator expressing that “this bill may bring more volunteers into the system that are presently retired.”
While separate bills to give assurances to volunteer providers during federally declared disasters remain pending in Washington, DC, this latest effort in Wyoming would encourage those looking to provide care to the state’s neediest residents.
To read more about the liability proposal for Wyoming volunteer providers, click here.