2018 Voter’s Guide

Civil Justice Reform Voter’s Guide (PDF)

Legislative Elections Directly Impact Your Chance of Getting Sued!

This year, Pennsylvanians will be electing 203 members of the state House, half of the Senate (25 members) and a governor. These positions carry a tremendous responsibility.

court room
Legislators are charged with setting public policy through enacting laws which impact every Pennsylvanian, particularly in the areas of liability and civil justice. Legislative enactments impact the economy, healthcare, schools, businesses, local government, the environment and numerous other areas of policy. It is important that our legislators and governor enact laws that establish a reasonable litigation climate and reverse the impact of judicial decisions detrimental to a healthy litigation climate.

Pennsylvania’s Litigation Climate: Why Is This Important?

Many people don’t realize how much the litigation climate impacts everyday lives. The jobs we count on, the ability to create jobs, access to the healthcare we receive, and the overall health of our communities are all impacted by the laws governing civil litigation.

A recent survey conducted for the U.S. Chamber Institute for Legal Reform revealed that 85% of the businesses responding said that a state’s litigation environment is likely to impact where they will do business. This percentage is up from 75% in 2015 and 70% in 2012. The same survey found Pennsylvania mired at 38th in the nation for its litigation climate. The U.S. Chamber Institute for Legal Reform estimates that Pennsylvania could raise its employment rate by 1.5% if meaningful litigation reform is enacted.

As sobering as those figures are, the American Tort Reform Association (ATRA) in late 2017 declared that Philadelphia is the Number 5 Judicial Hellhole in the nation!

Small businesses – Pennsylvania’s number one job creators — are hit particularly hard by lawsuits. In 2008, small businesses across the country expended $105.4 billion on civil litigation and paid $35.6 billion of those costs out of pocket as opposed to through insurance. Medical liability costs for doctors in small groups and small medical labs cost $28 billion during the same year.

Healthcare providers are also under constant attack in Pennsylvania’s courts. Pennsylvania’s overall payout for medical malpractice increased from $315.5 million in 2016 to $342 million in 2017, according to Diedrich Healthcare’s 2018 Medical Malpractice Payout Analysis. Pennsylvania has not passed medical malpractice reform since the MCARE Act (Medical Care Availability and Reduction of Error Fund) in 2002.   As courts continue to eat away at medical malpractice protections passed in the early 2000’s, it will be important that we elect legislators willing to address reform for both employers and health care providers.

Student activities in our universities and schools have recently been curtailed due to lawsuit abuse. Three student organizations at Penn State were decertified by the school due to the alleged high risk of their activities. The Outing Club, Nittany Grotto Caving Club, and Nittany Divers Scuba Club were deemed too risky after a review by the Student Affairs and Risk Management office. Student leaders blamed this on our increasingly litigious society making it far more difficult for people to get outside without the fear of lawsuits for any misstep. One middle school in Pennsylvania cancelled future overnight class trips with the school district Superintendent calling the trip “a lawsuit waiting to happen!”

In order to restore Pennsylvania to its full economic potential, protect the availability of medical care for our families and allow students to continue to enjoy the traditional experiences of their youth, it is important that we elect legislative candidates committed to reigning in the litigation industry and ending abusive lawsuits.

What Makes a Good Legislative Candidate?

The Pennsylvania Coalition for Civil Justice Reform (PCCJR) considers several factors when reviewing the positions and qualifications of legislative candidates. Above all, our members want legislators who will enact laws that are fair, reasonable, and balanced.

Job creators and Pennsylvania’s economy are damaged by policies that expand concepts of liability in ways that are unwarranted and lead to unexpected consequences. Laws that recognize the need for consistency in our courts, predictability in legal outcomes and an understanding that a certain amount of risk is inherent in any human activity will set the right climate for job growth, opportunity, and preservation of medical care. Legislative candidates should support laws that encourage restraint to prevent run-a-way liability costs and will bring about the stability needed to protect job opportunities and access to healthcare. We believe a candidate who values common sense and personal responsibility will make a good legislator.

Candidate Questionnaire Response — Open Seats

The PCCJR sent candidate questionnaires to all candidates running for Governor, and the open seats for House and Senate. Those who responded, and the links to their responses are found below.

The PCCJR posed the following ten questions to the candidates:

The PCCJR posed the following ten questions to candidates running for House and Senate in open seats:

  1. From time to time, the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania will contract with outside law firms to represent the Commonwealth in civil cases. These law firms will charge a contingency fee for their services where they keep a certain percentage of any recovery in the lawsuit.

Will you support and vote for legislation known as Transparency in Private Attorney Contracting (TIPAC), such as is found in HB 502? TIPAC imposes limits on contingency fees to outside counsel representing the Commonwealth. This allows the Commonwealth to maintain control of the litigation and ensures that the taxpayer will receive more of the benefit of the litigation, as opposed to the lawyers trying the case.

The pro civil litigation reform answer is “Yes”

  1. Long-term care facilities, such as nursing homes, are under attack by out-of-state law firms. These firms target Pennsylvania nursing homes because there is no limit on punitive damages under Pennsylvania law. Punitive damages allegations are used to drive up the value of a lawsuit and force settlement, regardless of whether the long-term care facility has done anything wrong. Consequently, long-term care facilities settle nearly all suits brought against them.

Will you support and vote for legislation to limit punitive damages for long-term care facilities such as nursing homes? Legislation such as HB 1037 will limit punitive damages to 250 percent of compensatory damages to provide nursing homes protection similar to that provided to doctors under Pennsylvania law.

The pro civil litigation reform answer is “Yes”

  1. Many companies are sued in court for asbestos related injuries even though they had little or no responsibility for an injured person’s exposure to the product. The companies most responsible for asbestos exposure are often bankrupt, but have established trusts to compensate those exposed to their products. These asbestos trusts cannot be sued in court and separate claims must be filed to collect from the trusts.

Will you support and vote for “Asbestos Transparency“ legislation, such as that found in HB 238, requiring attorneys representing plaintiffs in an asbestos injury case to reveal to the court all bankruptcy trusts that they either have or will file claims against? This will restore fairness by allowing the court to properly apportion liability among all parties responsible for an asbestos exposure.

The pro civil litigation reform answer is “Yes”

  1. Emergency room physicians face unique challenges that are not found elsewhere in the practice of medicine. They must make quick decisions when taking care of the seriously injured. Often the patient is unable to provide a complete medical history due to the severity of injury. Emergency room physicians are therefore in need of enhanced protection from liability.

Will you support and vote for legislation providing greater protection from liability for emergency room doctors such as HB 1366? HB 1366 raises the burden of proof in a malpractice case against an emergency room doctor to require “clear and convincing” evidence of a grossly negligent act in order to hold an emergency room physician liable for malpractice.

The pro civil litigation reform answer is “Yes”

  1. Pennsylvania does not have a Statute of Repose for products. A Statute of Repose prevents what could otherwise amount to a form of unlimited liability of the seller or manufacturer of a product, by recognizing that products have a limited useful lifespan.

HB 258 requires that personal injury suits be brought within 15 years of the date of delivery of a product, or the date of completion of a part added to the product, unless the injury does not appear within the 15-year period. Will you support and vote for legislation such as HB 258 to create a Statute of Repose for products in Pennsylvania?

The pro civil litigation reform answer is “Yes”

  1. A False Claims Act encourages bounty hunters, known as “qui tam” plaintiffs, to sue on behalf of the government when they have information that a business has received government payment for which it is not entitled. The qui tam plaintiff keeps a significant portion of any verdict and thus has an economic incentive to bring lawsuits. Pennsylvania already recovers funding under the federal False Claims Act for any false claims made against the state, yet there are those trying to adopt a state False Claims Act that would divert even more money recovered to the bounty hunting qui tam plaintiff.

Do you support passage of a state False Claims Act in Pennsylvania?

The pro civil litigation reform position is “No”

  1. Venue shopping is when an attorney files suit in a county known for its high verdicts even though the case has little or no connection to the county. One such high verdict location in Pennsylvania is Philadelphia. Verdicts are known to be so high in Philadelphia that the American Tort Reform Association named Philadelphia the Number 5 “Judicial Hellhole” in the nation.

Will you support efforts to limit the venue for all civil tort cases in Pennsylvania to the county where the cause of action arose? Limiting venue to the county where the cause of action arose will prevent parties from being dragged into the high verdict Philadelphia court system, unless the cause of action arose in Philadelphia, for example.

The pro civil litigation reform answer is “Yes”

  1. Current court rules require posting a bond in the amount of 120 percent of a verdict or judgment in order to stay collection while a case is on appeal. With huge multi-million-dollar verdicts being common today, the ability to afford an appeal bond is often out of reach for all but the wealthiest of parties. This prevents an unjust verdict from being heard and reversed by a higher court.

Will you support efforts to limit the amount of money a defendant must post in order to appeal an unjust or incorrect verdict?

The pro civil litigation reform position is “Yes”

  1. The Unfair Trade Practices Act and Consumer Protection Law provides for a minimum recovery of $100 per claim. This means that actual damages of a few cents (such as a supermarket scanner error of a few cents) results in damages being awarded for $100 instead of a few cents. In addition, each proven claim is awarded the minimum amount of $100 and these claims can be aggregated to create class action lawsuits. These “statutory” or minimum damages requirements penalize Pennsylvania businesses well in excess of the actual amount of any damages. The statute also allows these damages to be tripled.

Do you support legislation to raise the minimum amount of damages, also called statutory damages, for suits brought under Pennsylvania’s Unfair Trade Practices/Consumer Protection Law from the current $100 to $500 as found in HB 475?

The pro civil litigation reform answer is “No”

  1. The federal courts had interpreted Pennsylvania’s Consumer Protection Act to preclude out-of-state consumers from suing in-state businesses over an out-of-state transaction or occurrence. The federal courts reasoned that the legislature did not intend for out-of-state consumers to be protected by Pennsylvania’s Consumer Protection statute in this situation. Recently, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court, in the Danganan decision, declined to follow the interpretation of the federal courts and held for the first time that an out-of-state consumer could sue a Pennsylvania company under the Pennsylvania Consumer Protection Act for an out-of-state transaction or occurrence.

Will you support and vote for legislation that will prevent out-of-state consumers from suing in state companies for causes of action or transactions that occurred out of state?

The pro civil litigation reform answer is “Yes”

Follow the links below to see how the candidates responded:

PA Senate Incumbents — Civil Justice Reform Voter’s Guide


Please click on the button below to see how Senators voted on legislation identified by the PCCJR as important to the advancement of civil justice reform in Pennsylvania.

PA Senate Incumbents| How they voted (PDF)

PA House Incumbents– Civil Justice Reform Voter’s Guide

The PCCJR identified several key votes of the 2017-18 legislative session to be of crucial importance to our members and the advancement of civil justice reform in Pennsylvania. This guide and matrix explains these votes and tracks how the members voted.

PA House Incumbents| How they voted (PDF)