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House Bill 804

Posted on December 26, 2014

In Pennsylvania, anyone bringing a lawsuit for negligence must establish their case by a “preponderance of the evidence” before a jury can find in their favor. This standard holds true across all types of personal injury litigation, including automobile accidents, slip and fall accidents, and construction accidents and is rooted in the tradition of civil law in Pennsylvania that requires the party with the burden of proof to tip the scales of justice in their favor to prevail.

The emergency room physicians of Pennsylvania are asking the state legislature to change the law just for them and increase the burden of proof necessary for a patient to tip the scales in their favor. They are asking the legislature to elevate the standard necessary for a party to prevail at trial if they have been sued as a result of negligence or careless medical treatment.

There is no statistical evidence to justify changing the legal standard now applicable to everyone in Pennsylvania for emergency room doctors. First, they have failed to implement safety measures to improve the care and reduce the number of errors and potential lawsuits. Second, Pennsylvania has already seen a sharp decline in medical malpractice litigation generally, including cases against emergency department physicians.

In 2013, there were 110 malpractice verdicts. Patients prevailed only 25 times. It’s true, it’s posted on the website of the Pennsylvania Supreme Court. There were only 25 verdicts in favor of patients across the entire state, so there is no reason to make it even more difficult for patients to receive compensation when they have been the victims of medical malpractice and careless care resulting in injury or death. This legislation represents yet another effort by doctors who misguidedly believe they are entitled to be treated differently than everyone else in Pennsylvania. The way to further reduce the number of medical malpractice cases and verdicts in favor of patients is to improve patient care, not to make it even more difficult to achieve justice when the deck is already stacked in favor of the doctors.

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