Safe Harbor Legislation ** False Claims ** An Unusual Summer
An Unusual Summer Adds to the Unusual Year
Momentum Builds for COVID-19 Safe Harbor Legislation
Holding the Line on False Claims
In the News
COVID-19 Liability Protections Introduced
PCCJR Raises Awareness, Pushes for Pandemic Liability Protections
PCCJR Urges U.S. Congress to Enact COVID-19 Liability Protections
In the News
Business and Health Care Organizations Say Legislature Must Take Action to Ensure Full Recovery
(Harrisburg, PA) Health care providers should be able to deliver care and Pennsylvanians should be able to reopen the economy without fear of getting sued. Today, leaders of Pennsylvania’s business and health care community, along with the Pennsylvania Coalition for Civil Justice Reform, called on the legislature and Governor to provide safe harbor protections to businesses and health care providers so Pennsylvanians can safely restart the economy and continue to provide access to world renowned care without being impeded by lawsuits.
“Once again, Pennsylvania is the outlier when it comes to offering liability protection for our businesses and healthcare providers,” said Curt Schroder, executive director of the Pennsylvania Coalition for Civil Justice Reform. “Our neighbors, New York and New Jersey, have taken strong legislative steps to enact protections for health care providers that are much more comprehensive than Governor Tom Wolf’s executive order. No protection is provided at all in the executive order for businesses meeting the unprecedented demand for Personal Protective Equipment, nor are businesses protected as they re-open in the face of the continuing pandemic. The legislature needs to act with urgency to provide necessary protections to prevent any delay or impediment to Pennsylvania’s economic recovery. Pennsylvanians need to focus on getting the economy going again, not the constant worry and threat of being sued.”
Dr. Lawrence John, President of the Pennsylvania Medical Society, said: “Gov. Tom Wolf’s executive order granted physicians medical liability immunity in some settings but not others. What he failed to take into account is that COVID-19 infections are treated in outpatient settings, including doctors’ offices. The freedom to respond quickly and confidently to any patient with COVID-19 symptoms –whether they visit in a hospital or an office– is essential to providing the highest quality of care.”
Andy Carter, President, The Hospital and Healthsystem Association of Pennsylvania, said: “We are not seeking ridiculous provisions protecting malevolent policies, gross organizational negligence, or willful misconduct.
Instead, we want the organizations that employ our health care heroes to have the same protections against frivolous lawsuits, which are untethered to the reality of providing treatment of a novel illness under an emergency declaration. As it stands now, the Governor’s order does not stop these lawsuits; it does not stop worry about lawsuits getting in the way of providing the best care; and it does not stop the trials, the depositions, and the other onerous parts of litigation that will keep all our health care heroes tied up instead of defeating COVID-19.”
David N. Taylor, President & CEO of the Pennsylvania Manufacturers’ Association, said: “Manufacturers have answered the Governor’s call to retool so they can provide the essential gear our front-line health care workers need to fight the pandemic: masks, surgical gowns, face shields, antibacterial sanitizer, and ventilators. Through the DCED portal and elsewhere, these Pennsylvania manufacturers have taken on the risk of making an unfamiliar product or accelerating the production of an existing product line. Because these manufacturers are helping the people who are helping patients, they deserve Good Samaritan protections against predatory and opportunistic lawsuits. Governor Wolf asked these manufacturers to respond, and they have. It would be unjust to abandon them now.”
Gene Barr, President of the PA Chamber of Business and Industry, said: “Pennsylvania’s economy has suffered enormous damage as a result of this pandemic, and it’s going to take enormous collaboration to get business back up and running again. At both the state and federal level, it’s imperative that temporary and targeted liability reforms are put in place as soon as possible. Without them, everyone from healthcare providers to those working to keep our supply chains going to small businesses that are already struggling just to keep their doors open will be held back even more with the looming threat of frivolous lawsuits. This will only prevent our Commonwealth from experiencing the economic resurgence we desperately need –and without it, the state may never truly financially recover. On behalf of Pennsylvania’s broad-based business community, we are urging elected officials to act without delay on passing critical liability reforms.”
CONTACT: Curt Schroder, executive director, PCCJR: 610.389.4293; email@example.com
The Pennsylvania Coalition for Civil Justice Reform is a 501(c )(6), not-for-profit, nonpartisan advocacy organization comprised of a diverse group of organizations and individuals committed to bringing fairness to Pennsylvania’s courts by raising awareness of civil justice issues and advocating for legal reform.
Advocates for protections**Survey results**A trial lawyer’s perspective**Rules Committee Appointments**False Claims Bill introduced
As the economy reopens, business leaders ask U.S. Senate for protections.
Representatives of retail, food and fuel, higher education and tourism were among the business leaders asking the U.S. Senate to provide liability protections as the nation restarts the economy. At a hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee, they asked for temporary protection against litigation.
As the nation moves toward reopening its economy, there are real concerns among business owners that the unknowns of the virus and the lack of guidance creates an environment ripe for employee and customer lawsuits. That will add insult to the injury of COVID-19’s devastating impact. Already, Walmart faces a wrongful death suit and the meat packing industry is being sued.
Liability protections may be part of the next stimulus package, according to Senator Mitch McConnell.
Read more in Legal Newsline, “Businesses plead with Judiciary Committee for help from coronavirus lawsuits, warn of ‘liability cliff’.”
In Pennsylvania, legislation providing liability protection to health care facilities and professionals, as well as businesses who have re-tooled to make Personal Protective Equipment, has been introduced in the House. H.B. 2546 has not yet been referred to a committee. PCCJR expects similar legislation, as well as premises liability protection legislation, to be introduced in the Senate in the near future.
Survey says protect health care workers and personal protective equipment manufacturers from lawsuits
Frontline COVID-19 workers and providers overwhelmingly deserve protections against lawsuits according to respondents to recent PCCJR survey questions. For both health care providers and businesses that have shifted their focus to produce personal protective equipment and other COVID-19 necessities, over 93% of respondents agreed that legal protections are in order! Clearly, Pennsylvanians believe we should be supporting our heroes, not subjecting them to plaintiffs’ lawyers crippling legal actions.
Trial lawyer says protect health care workers from COVID-19 litigation!
“We need to recognize that the law simply should not apply to the current situation.” Those were the words of a past president of the New York State Trial Lawyers Association in aNew York Post opinion editorial laying out the case that medical professionals should be protected while treating COVID-19 patients.
New York State provided its health care workers and facilities civil and criminal immunity through the Emergency Disaster Treatment Protection Act. It is one of many states to do so. Pennsylvania’s Governor Tom Wolf issued an executive order with limited protections that leaves many COVID-19 heroes exposed. PCCJR is working with the General Assembly to enact legislation to provide broader protections.
Appointments made to Civil Procedural Rules Committee
Two plaintiffs’ attorneys and one defense lawyer accepted appointments to the Pennsylvania Supreme Court’s Civil Rules Committee. Benjamin Baer, a plaintiffs’ attorney at Saltz Mongeluzzi & Bendesky, Casey Coyle a defense attorney at Eckert Seamans, and Scott Cooper, a plaintiffs’ lawyer at Schmidt Cramer.
The committee assists the Pennsylvania Supreme Court in preparation, revision, publication and administration of the rules of civil procedure. This is the same committee that is currently considering the rule change related to venue shopping!
Committee appointments are typically for six-year terms. PCCJR will issue another alert when the next call for applicants is issued. We need good, qualified applicants to provide a voice of reason and balance on this influential committee.
This Just In: False Claims bill introduced in PA House
Just slipping in under the wire for today’s publication, the unexpected and unwelcome introduction of a False Claims Act in the House. As if hospitals and nursing homes do not already have their plates full protecting us from the COVID-19 pandemic, now they could face more lawsuits under H.B. 2352. And that will be on top of the avalanche of lawsuits to come if the legislature does not provide meaningful liability protection to health care and all businesses responding to the COVID-19 pandemic.
We will soon know if the legislature would rather have pharmaceutical companies develop a COVID-19 vaccine or divert their time and resources to defending endless lawsuits.
Expect PCCJR to reach out to you to contact legislators in the weeks to come. We need to remind them that fighting the pandemic and successfully opening businesses without fear of lawsuits must be the priority over lining the trial bar’s pockets.
In the News
Baby steps | “Health care providers get relief from coronavirus lawsuits as Wolf signs order” | Pennsylvania Record
Predictable | “New York law firm gets lion’s share of $112 million in NFL concussion fees” | Philadelphia Inquirer
HARRISBURG, PA – Curt Schroder, Executive Director of the Pennsylvania Coalition for Civil Justice Reform, issued the following statement on Governor Wolf’s Executive Order regarding civil immunity for health care providers:
“Governor Wolf’s Executive Order provides limited protection from civil liability for health care professionals making it one of the weakest such measures enacted in the nation. Unfortunately, the Governor has not provided the full and broad immunity protections that are needed by those serving us during the COVID-19 pandemic. The order fails to recognize the stresses and conditions being experienced by all health care practitioners, including those not treating COVID-19 patients and those treating COVID -19 on an outpatient basis.
In addition, the order completely fails to protect health care facilities such as hospitals, nursing homes, and health systems who have to deal with shortages of Personal Protective Equipment, triage situations due to space limitations, elective procedures delayed and other realities of operating a facility during this pandemic.
This order will do little to protect health care from the plaintiffs’ attorneys lying in wait to file potentially devastating claims. It does, however, protect the earning potential of plaintiffs’ attorneys hoping to cash in on the pandemic. Any assertion that we are “safer” because there are attorneys waiting to sue health care facilities is a misleading, discredited argument. Health care providers exist to treat and heal. They put their utmost efforts into saving lives, and lawsuits make no contribution to that end.
The order also ignores the needs of those who have re-tooled facilities or ramped up production of Personal Protective Equipment. At a time when there is a world-wide shortage of this equipment needed to keep our health care workers safe, those businesses who are incurring additional risk to meet the needs for PPE should receive safe harbor for doing so. PCCJR calls on the legislature to take decisive action to protect the bulk of health care services left out of the Governor’s order and to protect PPE manufacturers and distributors.
The legislature also needs to turn its attention to protecting businesses as they begin to re-open in Pennsylvania. Many are fearful of re-opening due to liability exposure. The fear of lawsuits will continue to cripple Pennsylvania’s economy unless that threat is lifted. Legislative action is required to prevent small shops and stores from being put out of business by COVID – 19 related lawsuits so Pennsylvania can re-open and get back to work.
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CONTACT: Curt Schroder, Executive Director, Pennsylvania Coalition for Civil Justice Reform, 610.389.4293, firstname.lastname@example.org.