The state legislature and Wolf administration tied up the final pieces of the 2022-23 budget over the weekend. Lawmakers left Harrisburg without voting on a proposed constitutional amendment protecting the state’s current venue rule as it relates to medical liability cases.
Over the course of the spring and early summer, as plaintiffs’ attorneys ramped up their efforts to overturn the current venue rule, PCCJR advocated for lawmakers to move forward with a proposed constitutional amendment to settle the issue once and for all. PCCJR’s argument’s for keeping the current rule – which stipulates that medical malpractice cases must be filed in the county in which the alleged incident occurred – was bolstered by the findings of an independent actuarial analysis that shows potentially devastating professional liability premium increases in some parts of the state if the courts allow a return to venue shopping.
In early June, House Judiciary Chair Rob Kauffman introduced H.B. 2660, which would amend the state constitution to clarify that the General Assembly may establish the venue of a civil lawsuit by statute. However, despite the House Judiciary Committee’s passage of the bill, it has yet to be brought up for consideration by the full House. Likewise, an attempt to have language from HB 2660 added to a Senate omnibus constitutional amendment did not come to fruition prior to the summer legislative recess.
PCCJR will continue to fight back against the trial bar’s attack on the current venue rule. However, the legislature is not expected to return to session in time this fall to complete the first step of the constitutional amendment process which would have allowed the amendment to be approved by the voters at the 2023 primary election. Due to the timing aspects of passing and publishing constitutional amendments, the earliest this could now go on the ballot for ratification would be 2025.