The Pennyslvania House is the next stop for legislation creating an amendment to the state constitution that would permit the Legislature to at least debate and possibly pass legislation placing financial caps on medical malpractice verdicts.
Three prior amendments to a shell bill known as S.B. 9 died in the Senate before final passage by a fourth, compromise effort was approved around 3:06 a.m. March 10, according to Chuck Moran, spokesman for the Pennsylvania Medical Society, which favors the legislation.
The compromise authored by Republican James Rhoades is not specific as to the amount of the financial caps. It reads: "In a medical professional liability action involving a medical professional liability claim brought against a licensed health care professional or a health care facility, the General Assembly may, by statute, limit the recovery of non-economic damages for injuries resulting in death, or for injuries to persons."
Moran says the good news about the vote is that it sets tort reform in motion. But the measure still faces a long road before it becomes law. The proposed amendment moves now to the House, where the PMA is trying to gauge support, Moran says.
Under state law, it must pass two consecutive General Assembly sessions unamended before it can be put to the voters in a referendum The next two-year session convenes in 2005, Moran said, so it's possible the amendment could be placed before voters by November 2005.
In addition, however, the amendment must be approved at least once by both legislative houses by a specified number of days before a general election, which means it must pass the House sometime in July, Moran said.