Articles Posted in Pennsylvania

The Pennsylvania Supreme Court last week reversed itself on its ruling to maintaining a Pennsylvania state court thimerosal claim in light of the Supreme Court’s decision in Bruesewitz v. Wyeth. The court returned the case for further proceedings in light of Bruesewitz, which is the same as granting summary judgment for the defendant.

For reasons that escape me, the court held that section §22(b)(1) of the National Childhood Vaccine Injury Act of 1986 pre-empts all vaccine related design defect claims. I don’t think – and neither do two other justices on the Supreme Court – that it’s a fair reading of the Act. But it is the Supreme Court’s call to make so it is no surprise the Pennsylvania court did what it did.

These are tragic cases but they were tough to prove even before the Supreme Court raised the bar even higher.

Max Kennerly writes about a lot of new bills being proposed in Pennsylvania. Any legislature can propose a bill and there is always someone in every legislature – on both sides of the aisle – who likes to put out radical bills so they can brag to their constituents about how crazy they are. Still, these proposed bills do not give you a warm fuzzy feeling about the political climate right now for injury victims.

Ultimately, I think the problem is that people want jobs or more stability in their jobs and that fear distracts them from thinking about the unlikely possibility that they will be seriously injured and want to be compensated for those injuries. Politicians love blaming personal injury lawyers because they are an easy target. Often, the people throwing the punches don’t really feel like oppressing tort victims is going to solve anything but they can’t resist grabbing the low hanging fruit of blaming lawyers. To make matters worse, we have a minority of personal injury lawyers who are more than willing to live up to the stereotype.

A former police officer in Philadelphia received a $1.3 million settlement after suffering injuries in what would generously be described as a minor car accident. What defines as minor? No property damage? None?

The officer was at a stoplight when he was rear-ended in the kind of car accident that most people walk away from without even exchanging information. In fact, the police officer didn’t think he was hurt either. But he claimed to have suffered a pinched nerve in his right arm that ended his career as a police officer. Those guys are well paid which means good economic damages.

The temptation is to blame runaway juries. This case was settled before a mediator.

I’ve written in the past about the question of what limits the collateral source rule has in determining what medical bills can go to a jury. In particular, I discussed the court’s unfortunate ruling in Indiana that evidence that medical bills have been discounted can be introduced as evidence to the extent that discounted amounts can be introduced without referencing insurance.

Tort Talk says that a Pennsylvania judge addressed a related issue: whether future medical bills can be discounted because the victim has insurance. The court in this case said that the plaintiff may plead, prove and recover future medical expenses as those expenses were not shown to be “paid or payable.” The rationale? There is no way to say the Defendant will have insurance in the future.

I think the fact that we are having this conversation in the first place is ridiculous. All of these efforts to introduce payments and reductions violate the collateral source rule, a rule that has withstood scrutiny for a very long time. But at least this opinion does not take the insanity any further.

insurance cancel accidentIn Pennsylvania, the answer would appear that an insurance company can cancel your car insurance coverage even if the accident(s) were not your fault. In State Farm v. Insurance Department, the majority opinion cited the Pennsylvania Act of June 17, 1998, P.L. 464, No. 68 § 3 (Act 68):

Act 68 permits an insurance company to non-renew your policy for a variety of reasons, including two or more accidents under the policy during the past three years, if total damage payments exceed $1350, regardless of who was at fault in the accidents.

There is also a strong dissent in this case that is worth reading.

The Pennsylvania legislature is supposedly voting on changing joint and several liability law in Pennsylvania. Everyone has good names for their arguments. Republicans call it the “Fair Share Act;” Democrats are going by the “Wrongdoers Protection Act.” All would make good trial lawyers, right? Great framing.

Here is what I can’t figure out. Pennsylvania is a big state, right? So I’m trying to get updates on the vote on Google News. Can’t find an update. So I turn to Twitter because at this point I’d be interested in even unreliable information. I can’t find anything. I feel like it is 2006 or something.

If you know what is going on with Pennsylvania tort reform today, leave a comment.

The United States Attorney’s Office Western District of Pennsylvania is pursuing their first HIPAA violation prosecution. This was not some inadvertent disclosure. According to the indictment, the defendant provided names, birth dates and Social Security numbers of patients for personal gain. The scam? Filing false tax returns. The accused was also charged with violating the Social Security Act by disclosing Social Security numbers in violation of federal law.

James A. Goodyear, president of the Pennsylvania Medical Society, says that because Pennsylvania doctors win a defense verdict in 85 percent of malpractice lawsuits that go to trial, it may be that “too many claims are advancing that shouldn’t.”

Alternative view: good malpractice lawsuits settle before trial.

The Philadelphia Phillies mascot is the defendant in a lawsuit stemming from a fan’s injuries at a minor league baseball game. Plaintiff’s lawsuit alleges that the “Phillie Phanatic” climbed on top of her during a game in 2008 which causing Plaintiff arthritis to get worse which, Plaintiff believes, caused her to need a knee replacement.

Exacerbation of prior arthritis claims are incredibly tough because it so hard for the doctors to really state strong opinions as to whether a trauma accident caused her injuries to worsen. I also imagine there are liability problems. In these kinds of cases, I always fear the lawsuit is filed in part because it is a case against the Philly Phanatic and that sounds a little interesting, so let’s bring a case we otherwise would not. Again, I have no facts to support this, but it makes you wonder when you hear cases with these kinds of facts.

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