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Pa.'s top court delays controversial 'venue shopping' rule

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The state Supreme Court said it is delaying action and gathering more information about a proposed rule change that sparked controversy because of its potential effect on the health care industry.

Chief Justice Thomas Saylor wrote to state House leaders Thursday that the court will not adopt the proposal, at least until it gets a report from the Legislative Budget and Finance Committee. 

The state Senate had asked the committee earlier this month to review the rule change's impact and asked the court to delay its decision.

Announced in December, the proposed change would allow plaintiffs to choose a venue in which to file medical malpractice lawsuits.

Supporters say the proposal gives plaintiffs a better shot at a fair hearing. But Opponents say it would allow plaintiffs to pick county courts that tend to favor plaintiffs, a practice critics decry as “venue shopping.”

It the practice is allowed, it would drive up costs for malpractice insurance and sway physicians to practice in other states, according to health care providers who say that’s what was happening before a rule was enacted in 2003 to limit venue shopping.

Legislators also had criticized the proposed change, and they welcomed the court’s delay.

 “I am happy to see that the Supreme Court is doing its due diligence and taking into consideration all of the many viewpoints we have heard over the past few weeks to save our health care,” said Rep. Donna Oberlander (R-Clarion/Armstrong/Forest).

Oberlander and the House Majority Policy Committee held a public hearing on Thursday to gather feedback from Pennsylvania physicians, attorneys and health care providers about the rule change.

The Supreme Court’s Civil Procedural Rules Committee will be taking comments on the proposal until Feb. 22. The Senate set a deadline of Jan. 1, 2020 for the Legislative Budget and Finance Committee to finish its report. 

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Ioannis Pashakis

Ioannis Pashakis

Ioannis Pashakis covers health care and Lancaster County. Email him at ipashakis@cpbj.com.

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