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
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
Still Waiting for Safe Harbor for COVID-19 Heroes
We may not know the full scope or impact of the COVID-19 pandemic yet, but what we do know is that the consequences of the decisions, deployed resources, and plans to save lives will be with us for years to come. Health care practitioners and businesses working to meet increased demand for Personal Protective Equipment have their backs against the wall and have never faced such daunting and dangerous conditions.
Pennsylvania continues to resist taking action to protect the COVID-19 heroes in our health institutions and on the manufacturing floors. The lack of movement is surprising, as we know plaintiffs’ attorneys are preparing a surge in lawsuitsand we’ve already seen moves made by the plaintiffs’ bar seeking clients so they can cash in on the pandemic. PCCJRand its members continue to work with the Governor’s office and members of the House and Senate to enact safe harbor legislation, similar to laws passed and executive orders made in a growing number of states. Pennsylvanians struggling to serve the public’s needs during this crisis should not have to answer to second guessing plaintiffs’ attorneys, most of whom have never treated and cured an illness or made a product of public value.
The below video from our friends at ATRA nicely explains the need for liability protections for those working to keep us healthy and safe.
Venue Shopping Post-COVID-19 – Potential Change Threatens PA Now More Than Ever
Long before COVID-19 hit, we knew that the return to venue shopping in medical liability cases would severely impact access to health care. Facing the fallout of COVID-19, a change in the venue rule could push hospitals, nursing homes, and health care professionals over the edge.
PCCJR recently penned a guest column, Returning to the Days of Venue Shopping Would Hurt Pennsylvanians,which appeared in the April edition of Pennsylvania Physician. Venue shopping was a significant factor causing the medical liability crisis in the early 2000s. The Pew Report found that the liability crisis of the early 2000s was due in large part to an increase in the cost of claims. More cases filed in places like Philadelphia will only cause the cost of claims to rise again, putting pressure on the health care system and threatening the availability of high-risk services, like maternity care.
With the complicating factor of coming lawsuits related to COVID-19, we shudder to think what could happen if the Pennsylvania Supreme Court decides they can file those lawsuits in the Judicial Hellhole known as Philadelphia no matter where the harm occurred!
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PCCJR Member, St. Luke’s University Health Network, Collaborates on Lifesaving Invention
Among stories of hope, generosity and togetherness, the COVID-19 pandemic has also given rise to an incredible feat of ingenuity. A collaboration between PCCJR member St. Luke’s and Lehigh University led to the invention of the “Bug Zapper” to sterilize masks. Using a UV-C light, the team developed a high-throughput sterilization system to decontaminate 200 masks every 8 minutes.
Read more about the creativity and collaboration that responded to the desperate need for personal protective equipment (PPE) for our hospitals and other front-line organizations.
In the News
Companies need protection. | McConnell Wants Broad Liability Shield In Next COVID-19 Bill | Law360
When will PA act? | Pennsylvania leaders haven’t protected health care providers from coronavirus lawsuits| Pennsylvania Record
Theme parks, banks and cruise lines, oh my! | As the coronavirus curve flattens, expect a rise in lawsuits: ‘Things that you and I can’t even imagine,’ an attorney says| PennLive
Billboard Lawyers **Website Survey**More Good Works in COVID-19 Response**In the News
“Billboard Lawyers” Put Fees Over Protecting Public from Pandemic
Pennsylvania’s “Billboard Lawyers” admitted to working to defeat needed liability protections for health care providers and Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) makers, derailing efforts to put in place protections other states are implementing through their legislatures. When cornered by a reporter, Pennsylvania’s trial lawyers admitted they buried a proposal to provide limited liability protections to Pennsylvanians fighting the COVID-19 pandemic.
PCCJR is calling on the legislature to enact meaningful liability protections, so those on the front lines of this pandemic don’t have to look over their shoulder and see a lawyer waiting to make a buck off the suffering occurring during this national health crisis. [Read more…] about PCCJR Update — April 20, 2020