A world with fewer doctors, more lawyers

By The Pennsylvania Record | Feb 12, 2019

Ah, the good ol’ days – when doctors fled Pennsylvania because malpractice premiums were too high and patients seeking health care had fewer options.

Actually, those days weren’t good at all. It’s not ideal to have to close an entire maternity ward because the doctors can’t afford the insurance. But for trial lawyers, the days before a 2002 law addressed these problems are worth going back to, and the state Supreme Court might be ready to send Pennsylvania back to those dark days.

Seventeen years ago, Pennsylvania lawmakers decided to address the high costs of health care in the state. They passed a law that required lawsuits against health care providers to be brought in the county in which the alleged harm occurred.

Pretty easy to understand, right? Someone injured in Harrisburg shouldn’t be allowed to go after one of those seven- or eight-figure verdicts that Philadelphia has become known for.

It has not been a happy 17 years for medical malpractice lawyers. Claims are down considerably across the state since that 2002 law, known as the MCARE Act. The act helped reduce malpractice insurance costs and helped hospitals and doctors to not reduce hospital and ward services.

This law does not block access to justice for those who might be harmed by a doctor or hospital. It prevents, among other things, favored-venue-seeking trial lawyers from forcing defendants to travel hours to defend themselves.

We’ve already reported on the trial bar’s attempt to get the Democrat-led Supreme Court to undermine a 2011 civil justice reform bill. Now those lawyers are awaiting a lifeline from a Supreme Court rules committee, which is considering undoing the MCARE Act to allow lawyers to pick where they want to sue.

Remarkably, Pennsylvania law allows this committee to usurp the role of the legislature. That should not be. Who elected the committee? What judge declared the 2002 law unconstitutional?

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