PCCJR Update — April 30, 2019

Medical Liability: A Threat * Necessity Defense * In the News

Medical Liability: A Threat to PA Health Care, Even if Venue Rules Don’t Change

While the proposal to allow venue shopping in medical liability cases has garnered most of the attention recently, new studies show that health care professionals in Pennsylvania are already suffering under onerous medical liability burdens compared to providers in other states.

LeverageRx compiled data from the National Practitioner Data Bank and found that Pennsylvania was second only to New York in total medical liability payouts and in payouts per capita in 2018. Pennsylvania paid claimants $369,034,250. Here is a look at the five states paying the most in medical liability payouts in 2018:

New York: $685,317,000

Pennsylvania: $369,034,250

Florida: $346,857,750

California: $269,240,200

New Jersey: $226,712,000

Zurich’s 2018 Benchmark Study of Healthcare Professional Liability Claims also paints a grim picture for medical professionals in Pennsylvania. Zurich found that Pennsylvania had the highest average medical liability claim severity in the country in 2014 and 2015, the latest figures available in the Zurich study. Claim severity is the amount of damage inflicted by a loss, or the size of the loss. Severity is a criteria used to calculate premium rates. Zurich also found that Pennsylvania is consistently in the top five states with the highest frequency of medical liability claims.

In what will come as no surprise to any medical professional practicing in Pennsylvania, Philadelphia had the highest severity of malpractice claims of any venue studied in the report.  Philadelphia, along with the Chicago area, had two to three times the national average loss cost for medical liability. “Loss cost” can be defined as the portion of an insurance rate used to cover claims and the costs of adjusting claims.

The studies demonstrate why it is so important that the proposed medical malpractice venue rule changes are not enacted. Adding additional medical liability burdens on health care providers, by subjecting them to more lawsuits in Philadelphia and other high payout venues, will only serve to worsen an already severe medical liability environment. Medical professionals can take their practices to more welcoming states and graduating medical students will increasingly look to other states to start their professional careers. In the end, it is those needing medical care in Pennsylvania who will suffer as plaintiffs’ attorneys reap the benefit of higher contingency fees thanks to venue shopping.


“Necessity Defense” Used to Justify Criminal Activity

We recently took notice of a case in Washington State where a Court of Appeals reversed the burglary conviction of a man who claimed he had no choice but to break into a pipeline facility to save the planet from global warming! Yes, you read that correctly. The three-judge panel said the trial judge had violated the defendant’s Sixth Amendment rights by refusing to allow him to present a “necessity defense” to the jury.

According to the Climate Defense Fund, which represented the defendant, the ruling marks the first time the necessity defense was successfully used in a climate protest case. Most courts, including federal appeals courts, have rejected the necessity defense for protesters because they can’t meet the threshold burden of showing their actions were in reaction to an imminent threat.

This case certainly departs from the common understanding of what constitutes a reasonable response to an imminent threat. Let’s hope the Washington Supreme Court recognizes that allowing this ruling to stand would only lead to disorder and encourage more lawless actions from protesters. Read the entire article in Legal NewsLine.


In the News:

 Venue Shopping UpdateHealth care group pleased Pennsylvania slowed down effort to erase medical malpractice litigation reform| PennRecord

Will the Lights Stay On? |In Climate Suits, Cities Ask Judges To Start A Primitivist Revolution| Forbes

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