PCCJR Update — February 25, 2019

Venue Change Decision Delayed * Deeper Concerns About Rule Change Exposed * PCCJR Debates PA Association for Justice

Venue Change Decision Delayed… For Now

In a Valentines Day present to health care practitioners and patients, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court announced it would delay consideration of changing the venue rules for medical malpractice cases. In announcing the decision, the court said it would wait until after the Legislative Budget and Finance Committee completes a study on whether a change is needed, and the implications of any such change. That report should be completed by January 1, 2020.

“The decision by the Supreme Court is a welcome development,” said PCCJR Executive Director Curt Schroder. “A change of this magnitude should not be made without due diligence.”

Since announcing the potential venue rule change just before the Christmas holiday, PCCJR and its coalition partners have held news conferences, made media appearances, written letters and opinion editorials, testified before the legislature, and reached out to its broad constituency to rally opposition to the proposed change which would return venue shopping to medical malpractice cases. In the early 2000s, jackpot jury awards and frivolous malpractice lawsuits drove up medical malpractice insurance premiums to such levels that seriously threatened Pennsylvanians’ access to health care. In response, a new venue rule was enacted to require medical liability lawsuit to be brought only in the county where the cause of action arose. This change made malpractice insurance more affordable and returned patient access to health care and services.

In the weeks since the potential rule change was announced, hundreds of comment letters in opposition to the rule change were sent to the little-known committee the Supreme Court assigned to address the proposed change. Editorials have also cropped up in publications like the Reading Eagle and Penn Record questioning why this issue was being raised and the fact that the process would proceed largely out of public view.

PCCJR and its members have been active and vocal over the last eight weeks. We want to thank everyone who did their part calling attention to this important issue. While the delay is an interim victory for PCCJR and our partners, it is fair to say the debate is far from over. Staying engaged and sharing information within your circles of influence will be essential to the long-term effort to protect Pennsylvania health care and protect the current venue rule which has worked well and kept needless cases out of high verdict jurisdictions such as Philadelphia.

Forbes Article Exposes Deeper Concerns About Rule Change Proposal

Five lawyers, including the chair of the Supreme Court’s Civil Procedure Rules Committee, work at firms that file medical malpractice cases in Pennsylvania, according to a report in Forbes. That same report, which looked into the proposed venue rule change, also found that lawyers at these firms gave heavily to a PAC that spent millions on the 2015 state Supreme Court races. That was the year when three trial bar supported Supreme Court candidates won and significantly altered the balance on the Supreme Court.  Read the Forbes article here.

PCCJR Debates Rule Change with PA Association for Justice

Just one day before the Supreme Court announced it would delay it’s decision on the proposed venue rule change, PCCJR’s Executive Director Curt Schroder debated lawyer Cliff Rieders, representing the PA Association for Justice on WITF’s Smart Talk. The PA Association for Justice is a trial lawyer association and advocates for the pecuniary interests of personal injury attorneys.

To say that this conversation, moderated by host Scott Lamar, was “lively” would be an understatement! You can listen to the full podcast replay here.

 

 

 

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