Legislative Spring Wrap Up
For the first time in recent history, the Pennsylvania General Assembly finished the budget process early this year. On June 22 the governor signed the $32.7 billion budget into law and the General Assembly went home for the summer. Several pieces of legislation of interest to civil justice reformers were “in play” during the month of June, prior to legislative adjournment.
Arbitration Modernization Enacted
HB 1644, which is now Act 55, the Pennsylvania Collaborative Law Act (PCLA), allows for family members to resolve disputes outside the courtroom in matters such as divorce, child custody, alimony, and other aspects of family law. Amended into the bill, however, is a modernization and update of Pennsylvania arbitration law based on the Revised Uniform Arbitration Act (RUAA). Pennsylvania joins 20 other states to adopt the RUAA.
Advanced by the Pennsylvania Bar Association, HB 1644 as amended is designed to provide more complete arbitration procedures to meet the needs of the modern information age. The new arbitration provisions only apply to arbitration agreements executed on or after July 1, 2019.
House Action on Protz Fix
HB 1840 made progress this spring, passing the House by a vote of 115 to 80 and has been referred to the Senate’s Labor and Industry committee. HB 1840 is a “Protz Fix” bill which addresses the Supreme Court ruling that invalidated a portion of the Workers’ Compensation Act allowing employers to request an Impairment Rating Evaluation (IRE) after an injured worker has been paid 104 weeks of total disability benefits. Championed by Representatives Rob W. Kauffman and Garth Everett, the legislation restores IRE’s to Workers’ Compensation by providing for the use of the American Medical Association “Guides to the Evaluation of Permanent Impairment” 6th Edition (Second printing April 2009).
Long Term Care Still Under Siege From Out of State Lawyers
A major disappointment was the defeat in the House of HB 1037, which would have limited punitive damages awards to 250 percent of the amount of compensatory damages for long-term care facilities, including skilled nursing facilities, assisted living residences and personal care homes.
“This legislation would have protected hundreds of providers and tens of thousands of seniors in long-term care facilities from frivolous lawsuits brought by out-of-state predatory law firms,” said W. Russell McDaid, President and CEO of the Pennsylvania Health Care Association after the legislation failed.
“There are long-term care providers in Pennsylvania currently paying more to defend these lawsuits than on food for their residents,” McDaid continued. “There have been more than 130 nursing facilities that have either declared bankruptcy, been forced into receivership, changed ownership or simply left the state altogether in the last five years. This legislation would have helped put an end to this crisis—instead, providers will be more vulnerable than ever.”
The vote was hard fought but in the end, the bill was defeated in the House by a vote of 91-103. Take a moment to see who voted “yes” to save nursing home care and who voted “no” with the trial bar. Call your legislator and either thank them for their support of HB 1037 or ask the tough question – “Why did you vote no?
PCCJR Opinion Editorial: Where will lawyers strike next?
West Chester Daily Local
Fresh on the heels of Penn State decertifying several long-standing campus organizations due to liability and lawsuit concerns, now we learn that the West Chester Area School District is cancelling the Pierce Middle School’s annual field trip to Cape Henlopen.
According to district Superintendent Dr. James Scanlon: “From a management standpoint, it is a lawsuit waiting to happen.” (News report on WCHE, 1520 AM, June 11, 2018)
While some are quick to blame the school district for being too cautious, the district is not the cause of the problem. Read more.
This month’s edition of Lawsuit Watch featured special guess W. Russell McDade, President and CEO of the Pennsylvania Health Care Association, which represents Pennsylvania’s long-term care and senior service providers. The two had a robust conversation, leading up to a vote on HB 1037 regarding the litigation industry’s detrimental impact on the state’s nursing care facilities and the potential to erode care options for older Pennsylvanians.
H.B. 1037 was a bill that could have provided relief for nursing homes by limiting the amount of punitive damages. Unfortunately, it was later defeated by supporters of the plaintiff’s bar. (See the legislative summary in this Update’s opening notes above.)
You can hear the complete podcast by clicking here.
Lawsuit Watch airs on the fourth Monday of each month on WFYL. The program broadcasts live on 1180 AM and on the web.
In the News
Disappointing | Pennsylvania House votes down bill to limit punitive damages in nursing home litigation | Penn Record
Most sued mascot: Philly Phanatic | Big Green Litigation Machine |Philly.com