PA-ACP Seeks Actuarial Study of Proposed Med Mal Venue Rule

The PA-ACP has asked Sen. Lisa Baker (R, Luzerne), Chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee to commission an actuarial study of the impact of a proposed change to the medical liability venue rule.

In a letter to Sen. Baker, Larry Ward, MD, FACP, PA-ACP’s President urged the Senate Judiciary Committee to move forward with plans for securing an actuarial report on the venue issue as soon as possible.

“We cannot overstress our concerns that the Civil Procedural Rules Committee would take action in a vacuum and move the Courts toward a return to venue shopping at a time when access to quality health care is already threatened by physician and workforce shortages and burnout from two years of pandemic response,” said Dr. Ward.

The Pennsylvania Supreme Court’s Civil Procedural Rules Committee is considering this change, which would return venue shopping to medical liability cases in the Commonwealth, allowing an allegation of medical malpractice to be filed in a jurisdiction more favorable to the plaintiff rather than in the county where the alleged malpractice occurred.  The impact would drive up premiums and health care costs in the Commonwealth.

Last October, plaintiff-oriented members of the committee pressed the committee to recommend approval of the rule change to the Supreme Court.  While the committee did not act, the issue could be raised again when the Civil Procedural Rules Committee meets later this month.  

PA-ACP was an active participant in the two-plus years of discussions and negotiations in 2002-3 which resulted in passage of the MCare Act and other legislation to relieve the med mal crisis and control the skyrocketing costs of professional liability insurance.  At the time, the costs of medical malpractice insurance, driven by exorbitant awards in a few venues, threatened health care access because of the subsequent mass exodus of physicians.

These Acts provided sense and sanity to the state’s med mal atmosphere and returned stability to the insurance marketplace.

PA-ACP has been working with the Senate Judiciary Committee since the venue change proposal first surfaced Christmas week in 2019.  As a result of earlier action, the Senate passed legislation and the Legislative Budget and Finance Committee undertook a study of the impacts of the 20 year old law.  That report noted the favorable changes from the act, but did not put forth an opinion on the impact of a reversion to the prior system.