LBFC Report on Venue: Doesn’t Make Case for Return to Venue Shopping

Member Group : Coalition for Civil Justice Reform

HARRISBURG, PA — A coalition of stakeholders concerned about Pennsylvania’s health care and litigation climate said a report issued today by the Pennsylvania Legislative Budget and Finance Committee (LBFC)  demonstrates no reason to change the venue rule. The medical liability climate has been stable since the venue rule went into effect in the early 2000s and the report gave no compelling argument to disrupt the current rule.

While this group is still digesting the nearly 200 page report, its oral summary and the report itself clearly shows that since the MCARE Act passed and the venue rule went into effect:

  • medical liability claims and payouts have fallen;
  • liability insurance rates were rising rapidly until 2007, then declined;
  • the shift in claims from Philadelphia and Allegheny Counties was prominent.  This was exactly what the   venue reform of 2003 intended;
  • the availability of medical professional liability insurance has increased since 2002;
  • since 2007, the cost of medical liability insurance has decreased and become more affordable;

Changing the venue rule to once again allow venue shopping risks instability in the market and puts the positive changes noted in the report at risk.

The report also makes clear that the venue provision operates in conjunction with the other reforms of the MCARE Act. It would be unwise to tamper with the act and create instability in medical liability market.

Those seeking a return to venue shopping  have the burden of showing that such a rule change is needed.  The LBFC report does nothing to support their efforts to change the venue rule.

The statement below was released jointly by The Pennsylvania Coalition for Civil Justice Reform, The Pennsylvania Medical Society, The Hospital and Healthsystems Association of Pennsylvania, and the Pennsylvania Health Care Association.

“As organizations directly impacted by and seriously concerned about this issue, we are grateful for the LBFC’s work. We agree with the report’s finding that the medical liability climate has been stable since the current venue rule went into effect. This fact alone supports allowing the current venue rule to remain in place. The report does nothing to further the case of those wanting to return to venue shopping.

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. Such higher costs and less care will only

benefit plaintiffs’ lawyers. Patients in need of care, particularly in rural communities, will lose.

As the Civil Procedural Rules Committee considers changing the rules about where doctors and hospitals can be sued, we urge them to weigh these facts seriously:

  • In the early 2000s, Pennsylvania was in a medical liability crisis.
  • A rule change in 2003, stopping attorneys from filing cases in courts far away from where the cause of action arose was the single, most effective reform made to combat the medical liability crisis.
  • The results of this rule change were immediate and dramatic. Statistics compiled by the Supreme Court revealed that between 2000-2002 an average of 1204 medical malpractice cases were filed in the Philadelphia courts each year.
  • In 2003, as a result of the venue rule reform, the number of medical liability cases filed in Philadelphia was cut in half and continued to decline every year until last year.

Patients involved in negligence cases deserve compensation.  The current venue rule provides open access to the court system and competent juries, no matter if they are from Potter County or Philadelphia.

A return to venue shopping risks a return to the medical liability health care crisis. There is much at stake. We now urge the Civil Procedural Rules Committee to uphold the venue rule as adopted to prevent another medical liability crisis in our state.”

For further comment please contact:

Curt Schroder, Pennsylvania Coalition for Civil Justice Reform, [email protected], (717) 461-3577

Claire E. Shearer, Pennsylvania Medical Society, 717-372-4628, [email protected]

Rachel A. Moore, The Hospital and Healthsystems Association of Pennsylvania, [email protected], (717) 561-5342

Shayna Varner, Pennsylvania Health Care Association, [email protected], 717-221-7935

Curt Schroder

Executive Director

Pennsylvania Coalition for Civil Justice Reform

[email protected]

(717) 461-3577