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House of Representatives
Session of 2019 - 2020 Regular Session


Posted: April 5, 2019 02:43 PM
From: Representative Donna Oberlander
To: All House members
Subject: Personal Jurisdiction in Medical Professional Liability Actions
In the late 1990s and early 2000s, Pennsylvania experienced a medical liability crisis like no other in our history. Medical liability insurance premiums rose, hospital maternity units, emergency departments and trauma centers nearly shuttered and physicians retired early or left the Commonwealth. These are well documented facts.

A major driver of that crisis was venue shopping. In response, the General Assembly, Governor Mark Schweiker and the state Supreme Court resolved this vexing issue by enacting Act 127 of 2002 and adopting the current venue rules. These actions did more to stabilize the medical liability insurance market than any other action of the era.

Since December, however, we have all become aware that the Pennsylvania Supreme Court’s Civil Procedural Rules Committee is considering a proposed rule amendment that would reinstate venue shopping. In response, the House Majority Policy Committee held a hearing and has learned that a return to a venue shopping rule will increase healthcare costs and likely plunge the Commonwealth back into a medical liability crisis. The General Assembly cannot allow this to occur.

To that end, I plan to introduce legislation that addresses the exercise of personal jurisdiction (i.e. the power of a court to determine whether it can exercise power over the defendant based on the defendant’s ties to the forum in which the court sits) in medical professional liability actions. Our state’s constitution vests jurisdiction determinations with the General Assembly, not the Court. By pursuing this constitutionally sound path, we can once and for all resolve jurisdiction in medical liability lawsuits and end venue shopping.

Further, I am introducing this legislation because the Senate recently passed Senate Resolution 20 directing the Legislative Budget and Finance Committee (LBFC) to conduct an analysis of the impact of venue shopping and the proposed changes. It is my hope that LBFC also considers the impact of my legislation. Please join me in co-sponsoring this vital legislation.

Introduced as HB1063