Articles Posted in Pennsylvania

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.

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.

One difficult issue medical malpractice lawyers in Pennsylvania, and all over the country, have is finding medical experts willing to testify against another doctor who has negligently injured a patient. The doctor has to be: (1) real world qualified, someone who the lawyer believes can speak to the issue authoritatively; (2) qualified in the eyes of the court; and (3) have the ability to effectively communicate all of this to a jury.

A Pennsylvania Superior Court found that in a recent opinion that the plaintiff’s malpractice lawyers did not meet the second prong of the test in a case involving a man who suffered a severe hematoma that formed outside an arterial wall of his brachial artery. After surgery to repair the condition, he lost the strength in his grip and suffered nerve damage. The ER doctors are named in the malpractice lawsuit because the patient kept calling and returning to the ER but did not get appropriate follow-up care.

Plaintiff’s malpractice lawyer submitted a certificate of merit from a neurologist and surgeon at Allegheny University Hospital and Temple University Hospital. But the court found that while the expert was a qualified neurosurgeon, he had insufficient training to testify about emergency room procedures.

Target is a defendant lawsuit in Pennsylvania with unimaginable facts: a wicker trunk bought at Target and used as a toy chest trapped a child’s neck, cutting off her causing spastic quadriplegia, severe psychomotor mental retardation. If you are parent reading this and you did not swallow hard, you don’t have a pulse. Just beyond awful.

The lawsuit claims Target should have warned about the risk and that the design of the product was defective: it should have had a lid support on the chest.

Pennsylvania malpractice lawsuits dropped about 11 from 2004 to 2007. In Lackawanna County, medical malpractice lawsuits plummeted 58 percent between 2000 and 2007. There were 30 Lackawanna County malpractice lawsuits were filed in 2007, compared with 35 in 2006 and 71 in 2000. In Lackawanna, Luzerne, Monroe, Pike, Sullivan, Wyoming, Susquehanna and Wayne counties, medical malpractice lawsuits dropped from 125 in 2000 to 88 last year.

Many attribute the decline to new Pennsylvania malpractice law that requires that “independent doctors” certify medical malpractice lawsuits before they can proceed. I don’t disagree with the premise of requiring a “certificate of merit” or other like mechanism before the filing of a medical malpractice lawsuit in Pennsylvania because I think it does what it should do in most cases: weed out malpractice lawsuits that should not be brought.

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