Venue shopping sprees to return to Pennsylvania

The Pennsylvania Supreme Court has reversed a rule in place for two decades that maintained liability lawsuits should be filed in the jurisdiction where the alleged negligence occurred, inviting personal injury lawyers on a venue shopping spree throughout the state.

Prior to the rule coming into place, Philadelphia was the preferred venue for liability lawsuits, as juries in the city were known to award larger-than-average payouts.

Looking back to cases that were tried in Pennsylvania from 2000 to 2003, Philadelphia issued 407 of the 1,144 verdicts involving medical liability. Of those 407 cases, 58 ended with payouts between $1 million and $5 million; 16 had payouts between $5 million and $10 million; and nine had payouts of more than $10 million.

“Venue-shopping was found to be one of the key causes … in the liability crisis that doctors and hospitals faced in the late 1990s and early 2000s,” said Curt Schroder, a former state legislator who now is the executive director for the Pennsylvania Coalition for Civil Justice Reform, a statewide association representing the health care and business industries.

The number of liability lawsuits dropped when the venue-shopping rule came into place. As recently as 2019, there were 78 verdicts, with 17 in Philadelphia.

Hospitals now fear a reversal will harm the state’s ability to attract and retain physicians.

“Putting more financial pressure on hospitals and making it even harder to attract direly needed clinicians to the commonwealth will have a devastating effect on health care,” said Andy Carter, chief executive of the Hospital and Healthsystem Association of Pennsylvania.

To read more about how venue shopping will create risks to Pennsylvania’s health care system and liability climate, click here.

Public policy inflicting harm on New Mexico’s health care system

With New Mexico patients facing a shortage of physicians and health care providers across the most rural parts of the state, sound public policy is needed to treat the range of health care challenges.

Paul Gessing, president of New Mexico’s Rio Grande Foundation, highlighted how the state could address its physician shortage in the years ahead and cited medical liability issues and a lack of reasonable limits on non-economic damages as part of the problem.

HB 75, a liability bill that increased the cap on damages, “will make New Mexico an even less attractive place for doctors to work than it already is, worsening our shortage of medical professionals,” Gessing said.

As it stands now, 32 of New Mexico’s 33 counties face a shortage of primary care physicians, a statistic that doesn’t take into account the far more severe shortage of specialists.

HB 75 increases the cap on damages to the point that “doctors can’t get malpractice insurance to cover them because they are too risky to insurance companies,” Gessing said.

To read more about the public policies that stand in the way of improving New Mexico’s health care system and patient access to care, click here.

Health care leaders pen letter on New York’s liability law

The Onondaga County Medical Society officers penned a letter to the editor to express the harm that will result from a misguided bill that would expand the types of damages recoverable under the state’s wrongful death statute.

It is well-reported that New York has long been a high-cost operating environment for health care providers, with the highest medical liability payout amount per capita and the second highest annual medical professional insurance costs.

Now, expansion of the state’s wrongful death law will result in a projected 40-percent increase in the cost of insurance for doctors and hospitals.

“Doctors and hospitals are already among the top targets for lawsuits and must grapple with sky-high insurance costs as a result,” the Onondaga County Medical Society officers wrote in a joint letter to the editor.

While supporters of the bill cite the need to align New York’s policy statutes to those of other states, “more than 30 states have laws which limit award amounts, which help suppress outrageous insurance premiums,” the officers counter. “Unfortunately, the bill under consideration does not include any economic guardrails to keep payouts and costs in check.”

Additionally, areas of the state outside major cities could see physicians opting out of practice altogether.

“The loss of even one practice can prove devastating to a rural community by further limiting access, forcing patients to travel even longer distances to access treatment and preventative care and leading to significantly worsened health outcomes in rural areas,” the letter states.

Click here to read more about the burdens imposed on physician practices and patient care in New York.