PCCJR Update — May 21, 2020

Advocates for protections**Survey results**A trial lawyer’s perspective**Rules Committee Appointments**False Claims Bill introduced

As the economy reopens, business leaders ask U.S. Senate for protections.

Representatives of retail, food and fuel, higher education and tourism were among the business leaders asking the U.S. Senate to provide liability protections as the nation restarts the economy. At a hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee, they asked for temporary protection against litigation.

As the nation moves toward reopening its economy, there are real concerns among business owners that the unknowns of the virus and the lack of guidance creates an environment ripe for employee and customer lawsuits.  That will add insult to the injury of COVID-19’s devastating impact. Already, Walmart faces a wrongful death suit and the meat packing industry is being sued.

Liability protections may be part of the next stimulus package, according to Senator Mitch McConnell.

Read more in Legal NewslineBusinesses plead with Judiciary Committee for help from coronavirus lawsuits, warn of ‘liability cliff’.”

In Pennsylvania, legislation providing liability protection to health care facilities and professionals, as well as businesses who have re-tooled to make Personal Protective Equipment, has been introduced in the House. H.B. 2546 has not yet been referred to a committee. PCCJR expects similar legislation, as well as premises liability protection legislation, to be introduced in the Senate in the near future.

Survey says protect health care workers and personal protective equipment manufacturers from lawsuits

Frontline COVID-19 workers and providers overwhelmingly deserve protections against lawsuits according to respondents to recent PCCJR survey questions. For both health care providers and businesses that have shifted their focus to produce personal protective equipment and other COVID-19 necessities, over 93% of respondents agreed that legal protections are in order! Clearly, Pennsylvanians believe we should be supporting our heroes, not subjecting them to plaintiffs’ lawyers crippling legal actions.

 

Trial lawyer says protect health care workers from COVID-19 litigation!

We need to recognize that the law simply should not apply to the current situation.” Those were the words of a past president of the New York State Trial Lawyers Association in aNew York Post opinion editorial laying out the case that medical professionals should be protected while treating COVID-19 patients.

New York State provided its health care workers and facilities civil and criminal immunity through the Emergency Disaster Treatment Protection Act. It is one of many states to do so. Pennsylvania’s Governor Tom Wolf issued an executive order with limited protections that leaves many COVID-19 heroes exposed. PCCJR is working with the General Assembly to enact legislation to provide broader protections.

Appointments made to Civil Procedural Rules Committee

Two plaintiffs’ attorneys and one defense lawyer accepted appointments to the Pennsylvania Supreme Court’s Civil Rules Committee. Benjamin Baer, a plaintiffs’ attorney at Saltz Mongeluzzi & Bendesky, Casey Coyle a defense attorney at Eckert Seamans, and Scott Cooper, a plaintiffs’ lawyer at Schmidt Cramer.

The committee assists the Pennsylvania Supreme Court in preparation, revision, publication and administration of the rules of civil procedure. This is the same committee that is currently considering the rule change related to venue shopping!

Committee appointments are typically for six-year terms. PCCJR will issue another alert when the next call for applicants is issued. We need good, qualified applicants to provide a voice of reason and balance on this influential committee.

This Just In: False Claims bill introduced in PA House

Just slipping in under the wire for today’s publication, the unexpected and unwelcome introduction of a False Claims Act in the House. As if hospitals and nursing homes do not already have their plates full protecting us from the COVID-19 pandemic, now they could face more lawsuits under H.B. 2352. And that will be on top of the avalanche of lawsuits to come if the legislature does not provide meaningful liability protection to health care and all businesses responding to the COVID-19 pandemic.

We will soon know if the legislature would rather have pharmaceutical companies develop a COVID-19 vaccine or divert their time and resources to defending endless lawsuits.

Expect PCCJR to reach out to you to contact legislators in the weeks to come. We need to remind them that fighting the pandemic and successfully opening businesses without fear of lawsuits must be the priority over lining the trial bar’s pockets.

In the News

Baby steps “Health care providers get relief from coronavirus lawsuits as Wolf signs order” Pennsylvania Record

Predictable | New York law firm gets lion’s share of $112 million in NFL concussion fees” | Philadelphia Inquirer

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