Pennsylvania’s legal climate is conducive to frivolous lawsuits and lacks protections that create a fair, balanced and common sense system. The business community supports legal reforms that help prevent lawsuit abuse while protecting the right of legitimate plaintiffs to seek justice.

State Supreme Court’s Medical Malpractice Rollback Ranks PA Among Top Judicial Hellholes in U.S.

Pennsylvania’s civil justice system has long been viewed as slow, unbalanced and costly – it’s no wonder, then, that it’s consistently been ranked among the worst “judicial hellholes” in the nation, according to the American Tort Reform Association.

In 2022, the state Supreme Court landed another blow by deciding to eliminate the state’s venue rule for medical liability lawsuits. This undid a fix from 2003 when Pennsylvania faced a physician shortage crisis arising from medical liability premium costs that were the result of an out-of-control litigation climate and “jackpot jury awards.” At that time, the PA Chamber supported the medical community’s successful efforts to change the state court system’s rules to require complaints to be filed in the county where the alleged injury occurred (instead of Philadelphia County, which is well known to favor plaintiffs.) Until the court inexplicably reversed the decision, the reforms had led to a better climate for doctors, nurses and healthcare providers and addressed the exodus of providers from Pennsylvania. It also improved access to care for patients while helping to control costs on the healthcare system.

In a statement about the decision, PA Chamber President and CEO Luke Bernstein said it will “only harm health care providers and further diminish our state’s competitiveness, without serving the interests of patients. The reforms previously enacted worked for Pennsylvanians, and this action by the court sets us backwards. If an incident took place in Cumberland or Westmoreland County, and there are no conflicts for the case to be heard there, why should it be moved to Philadelphia County or vice versa? We strongly urge … legislation establishing fair rules for venue in these types of civil cases.”


Chamber Chats: Fall Session Priorities

September 11, 2023

Lawmakers return to Harrisburg later this month, and the PA Chamber is excited to continue promoting bipartisan, pro-business solutions we are championing to make Pennsylvania a more competitive state for business. For the latest edition of Chamber Chats, the PA Chamber’s Lindsay Andrews caught up with our Vice President of Government Affairs, Alex Halper, to […]

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Bipartisan “Clean Slate” Expansion Clears House Committee

May 08, 2023

Members of the House Judiciary Committee unanimously voted to advance H.B. 689 – bipartisan legislation that seeks to build on Pennsylvania’s first-in-the-nation Clean Slate law. Enacted in 2018, this policy expedites the expungement process by automatically sealing old criminal records if the individual has remained crime-free for a period of time. The PA Chamber worked […]

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PA Chamber Statement on Biden Administration Vaccination and Testing Mandates

September 10, 2021 | Lindsay Andrews

PA Chamber President and CEO Gene Barr issued the following statement in response to President Biden’s announcement that he is mandating employee vaccination or weekly testing at businesses with 100 or more employees: “The Pennsylvania Chamber will be examining the full scope of these orders, to evaluate their impact on a private sector that has […]

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PA Chamber Applauds House Passage of Targeted COVID-19 Liability Protections

April 06, 2021 | Tricia Harris

PA Chamber of Business and Industry President and CEO Gene Barr issued the following statement following the state House’s passage of H.B. 605, legislation which includes temporary safe harbor protections for employers from unwarranted COVID-19 related lawsuits. “As we have repeatedly stated since the early days of the pandemic, targeted liability protections for those entities […]

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A fair and equitable system of civil justice is essential to the proper functioning of a free market economy. By permitting legitimate disputes to be resolved in a fair and efficient manner, it allows for full and timely compensation of parties legitimately injured; gives parties predictability and certainty; and contributes to greater productivity and economic prosperity. An unbalanced litigation environment can cause serious dislocations with significant economic implications such as reduced investment, increased costs, job loss, and improper shift of costs to taxpayers.

Despite the enactment of some reform, the Commonwealth has consistently ranked near the bottom of various studies of states’ liability climates. In order to boost the economy and create more private sector jobs, we need to inject fairness, common sense and personal responsibility into our courts by continuing to reform our antiquated legal system.

The current construct of the Commonwealth’s judicial system creates an environment that can lead to inefficient and biased justice. In order to achieve certain structural reforms to the system, changes to the Pennsylvania Constitution should be implemented. These changes include:

  • Creating specialized business courts similar to Delaware with authority to preside over various types of business disputes, thereby facilitating more timely and expeditious resolutions; and
  • Providing for the merit-based appointment, rather than the political election, of all judges to courts with appellate jurisdiction in the Commonwealth.

In addition to these structural reforms, the PA Chamber supports legislation that:

  • Ensures that claims are heard in the venue with the most logical connection to the case;
  • Provides reasonable limitations of liability for businesses who unknowingly sell a defective product and did not manufacture that product;
  • Gives the legislature the authority to establish reasonable controls for non-economic damages and caps on attorney fees in liability cases;
  • Provides for a statute of repose in actions to recover damages for death, injury to persons or property or economic loss resulting from a defective product;
  • Sets stricter standards for the imposition of punitive damages and limiting the total amount of punitive damages that may be awarded without taking away the ability to assess punitive damages on those who deserve to be punished;
  • Requires plaintiffs filing a product liability action to include with the complaint a certificate of merit containing an expert opinion from a licensed professional that there exists a reasonable probability that the product in question is defective and such defective state, quality or condition was a proximate cause in bringing about harm to the plaintiff;
  • Sets forth reasonable standards and fees for when the government hires outside counsel and limits the use of contingency fees;
  • Brings about more transparency between the asbestos bankruptcy trust and tort compensation systems;
  • Sets forth reasonable controls on contingency fees to ensure that the injured victims receive compensation commensurate with their injuries;
  • Institutes a reasonable cap on the total amount of security required on appeal;
  • Discourages the expansion of third-party litigation financing and promotes transparency of funding arrangements in civil actions;
  • Provides for the proper assertion of patent infringements;
  • Deters parties who file frivolous lawsuits by enacting appropriate sanctions;
  • Preserves the original intent of the Fair Share Act, ensuring that defendants are only required to pay their fair share of any damages awarded in multi-defendant litigation and curtailing joint and several liability; and
  • Enacts reasonable safe harbor legislation that sets appropriate standards and limitations for claims against employers, service providers and other businesses arising from actions taken in response to crises with widespread impacts, such as COVID-19.

The PA Chamber opposes efforts that would:

  •  Alter the methodology established by the federal civil False Claims Act in significant ways that would decrease the Commonwealth’s share of the award;
  • Allow juries, not judges, to decide insurance bad faith cases, thereby ruling on damages, attorney fees and costs, and interest;
  • Expand the types of damages that can be recovered and the persons who can sue to recover them;
  • Create a state antitrust statute that would add new causes of actions at the state level;
  • Expand the list of prohibited activities under the Unfair Trade Practice and Consumer Protection Law; and
  • Create new private causes of action where the Attorney General or county district attorneys already have civil enforcement power, or where administrative enforcement already exists.

Revised by the Policy Committee in June 2023 and approved by the Board of Directors on August 3, 2023