Health Care

Prevent Lawyers from Second Guessing Emergency Room Doctors

Hospital emergency department professionals frequently make split-second decisions about their patients’ care––lifesaving decisions sometimes made without the benefit of critical information about a patient’s pertinent medical history. Unfortunately, those heart-pounding, in-the-moment decisions are often later second-guessed in the sterile environment of a law office without any recognition of the unique nature of emergency medicine.

When seconds count, the threat of frivolous lawsuits shouldn’t slow medical personnel down. House Bill 1366 (Evankovich, R-Westmoreland) would require a judge or jury (or finder of fact) in any court proceeding to apply a “clear and convincing evidence” standard when determining whether or not an act by emergency health care providers or their failure to act was grossly negligent. This is a higher standard than normal “preponderance of the evidence” used in most civil cases. The bill identifies the mitigating circumstances that must be considered in any liability action related to the provision of emergency health care. House Bill 1366 would help limit the specious lawsuits that unnecessarily pull emergency health care providers away from their core mission of treating patients.

Emergency room care is vital to the health of our families and communities. Because of the unique circumstances emergency doctors and nurses face, there needs to be a balance that will promote good health care and patient safety. Allowing our emergency room professionals to make split second decisions without being second guessed by a lawyer with no medical experience promotes quality, life-saving health care.

Protect Nursing Care for Our Elderly

Pennsylvania’s nursing homes care for our most vulnerable population in need of health care and life services, namely our elderly. Our parents want to stay in Pennsylvania and it is critical that we maintain the facilities and services they need within our own borders.

Yet skilled nursing facilities, personal care homes, and assisted living facilities are under attack from predatory, out-of-state lawyers. These out-of-state law firms advertise heavily in newspapers and on television trolling for plaintiffs. Their inflammatory ads breed mistrust and anger against those who care for our elderly citizens.

These aggressive trial lawyer tactics have forced skilled nursing facilities to settle nearly 100% of cases brought against them to avoid any chance of being hit with a large punitive damage award. This has even caused nursing home chains to flee Pennsylvania to states where the liability climate is not as hostile.

Not many people realize that Pennsylvania is ranked second among all 50 states in total medical malpractice payouts and third in payouts per capita. These figures are not the result of poor care, but rather a litigation system that attracts out-of-state lawyers to come to Pennsylvania to sue and harass our nursing care facilities! Is it any surprise that liability costs continue to rise for Pennsylvania nursing homes? More than $104 million in Pennsylvania Medicaid dollars was spent on liability costs in 2015. This money should have been used to provide our elderly with needed medical care, not paid out in high contingency fees to lawyers!

It is time for Pennsylvania to place reasonable limits on punitive damages against nursing homes. HB 1037 would limit punitive damages to 250 percent of the amount of compensatory damages awarded against long term care providers. This common-sense bill will save our nursing homes and allow our elderly to get their care close to home.