Last Updated: Feb 5, 2020
A Senate resolution passed in February 2019 directed the Pa. Legislative Budget and Finance Committee (LBFC) to study the impact of venue for medical professional liability actions. The LBFC’s study was released on Feb. 3, 2020.
The state’s current venue rule, in effect since 2003, provides that a medical professional liability action may be brought against a health care provider only in the county in which the cause of action arose. The current rule was implemented as one part of the state’s medical liability tort reforms in 2002-2003.
The Pa. Supreme Court’s Civil Procedural Rules Committee is proposing a rule that would significantly expand potential venues.
PAMED Reaction to the LBFC Venue Report
The Pennsylvania Coalition for Civil Justice Reform (PCCJR), of which The Pennsylvania Medical Society (PAMED) is a founding member, strongly opposes any change to the current medical liability venue rule. While the group is still analyzing the report, its preliminary review finds that the LBFC report does not support efforts to change the current rule.
“A return to old rules would have profound, real-world consequences on the delivery of health care in Pennsylvania, including increased liability premiums for doctors and hospitals, which in return will impact the availability of health care services for people who need them,” PCCJR and the coalition said in a statement released on Feb. 3.
Read a joint press release from PAMED, the Pennsylvania Coalition for Civil Justice Reform, the Hospital and Healthsystems Association of Pennsylvania, and the Pennsylvania Healthcare Association in reaction to the study here.
Highlights from the Venue Report
The LBFC looked at venue from the time period of 1996 through 2018. The study did not reach a definitive conclusion on the impact of the 2003 venue rule.
Report highlights include:
- The cost of medical professional liability insurance in Pa. increased significantly from 1996 to its peak around 2007, before decreasing.
- The LBFC acknowledged that a change in the venue rule, coupled with the regionalization of hospital services, would likely have a destabilizing effect on the insurance market, at least in the short term, as insurers will likely have a more difficult time predicting costs.
- The number of medical malpractice filings has decreased by 44.9 percent between the period of 2000-2002 and 2015-2017.
- Compensation for injuries from medical negligence by physicians decreased by 13.7 percent from 2003 to 2018.
- LBFC was unable to reach a conclusion on the impact of venue on patient access to health care. It noted that access to care involves many different variables including health insurance coverage and geographic locations.
The LBFC’s full report is available here. And, find the LBFC’s report highlights here.
During the LBFC’s public meeting on Monday, Senator Lisa Baker, a member of LBFC and Chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee commented that further consideration of the topic may be warranted suggesting the possibility of a public hearing. Additionally, we will work with our PCCJR partners to analyze and respond to the LBFC's report.
Stay vigilant by watching our venue webpage at www.pamedsoc.org/venuerule and PAMED’s weekly e-newsletter, The Dose, for more information and next steps.
In early 2019, when we mobilized our members and other stakeholders to send their comments to the Pa. Supreme Court’s Civil Procedural Rules Committee that is proposing this change, nearly 2,600 people responded. If more action is needed, can we count on you? Please let us know by filling out this form so you will be included in our communications.