HARRISBURG – Legislation that limits punitive damages in verdicts against nursing homes could soon be discussed in the Pennsylvania House of Representatives.
The bill would apply the Medical Care Availability and Reduction of Error Act to nursing homes and assisted living facilities, capping punitive damages at 250% of the compensatory damages award.
Rep. Warren Kampf introduced the bill last year. He says nursing facilities currently settle virtually all cases brought against them for fear of a large punitive damages award.
“These cases have been driven primarily by out-of-state law firms that advertise heavily in newspapers throughout Pennsylvania, trolling for plaintiffs,” he said.
“The ads have brought public mistrust and anger against an industry that cares for our frail elderly citizens.”
In September, the bill passed the House Judiciary Committee in a 14-13 vote. The state’s legal reform group – the Pennsylvania Coalition for Civil Justice Reform – says the full House could take up the legislation as early as Tuesday afternoon.
“Nothing in HB 1037 will prevent an injured patient from recovering 100% of the compensatory damages they are due for any injuries,” the group says. “Punitive damages are only intended to punish defendants, not compensate victims.”
Currently, verdicts against doctors have a punitive damages cap of 200% of the compensatory award. The Pennsylvania Health Care Association says nursing homes under attack from two law firms – Wilkes& McHugh of Florida and Reddick Moss of Arkansas – need similar protections.
In-state plaintiffs lawyers wouldn't be happy with the bill if it becomes law, either. Other versions have been introduced in the past decade.
The state’s trial lawyer group – the Pennsylvania Association for Justice – tweeted as recently as June 6 #StopHB1037. The account frequently tweets news stories regarding alleged elder abuse.