TortsProf Blog

Editor: Christopher J. Robinette
Widener Commonwealth Law School

Tuesday, April 9, 2019

UPDATED: FL: Bill Would NOT Cap Non-Economic Damages at $1M in All Personal Injury Cases

A bill that would cap non-economic damages in all Florida personal injury cases at $1 million is headed to the House Judiciary Committee.  Decisions in 2014 and 2017 by the Florida Supreme Court struck down caps in wrongful death and medical malpractice cases.  The Florida Record has the story

UPDATED:  In the comments, someone sent me evidence the $1M cap was removed from the bill on March 29.  The bill now focuses on requiring the jury in some tort cases to consider an estimated value of the medical services rendered, based on a database containing amounts patients paid for similar care, in addition to the amounts actually billed by the provider to the claimant.

April 9, 2019 in Legislation, Reforms, & Political News | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, April 5, 2019

Lindsey Graham Appears to Support Class Action Reform

Lindsey Graham, who chairs the Senate Judiciary Committee, recently stated that "litigation abuse is real" and further stated that class action reform should be considered.  Graham's comments are interesting not only because of his position, but also because he receives donations from, and has sided with, plaintiffs in the past on some reform issues.  Legal Newsline has the story.

April 5, 2019 in Legislation, Reforms, & Political News | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, April 2, 2019

NJ: State Bans Non-Disclosure Provisions in Settlement Agreements for Discrimination, Retaliation, and Harassment

Last month, New Jersey adopted a law banning certain waivers of rights in employment contracts, as well as non-disclosure provisions in employment contracts and settlement agreements. 

Specifically, the Law declares as against public policy and unenforceable:

    • any provision in an employment contract that waives an employee’s substantive or procedural right or remedy relating to a discrimination, retaliation, or harassment claim under the LAD (law against discrimination) or any other statute or case law (a so-called “waiver of rights” provision), and

    • nondisclosure provisions in employment contracts and settlement agreements that conceal the details relating to a claim of discrimination, retaliation, or harassment (so-called “NDA” provisions).

The National Law Review has the story.  In 2017, a bill that would have prohibited non-disclosure agreements in similar circumstances was introduced, but not passed, in Pennsylvania.

April 2, 2019 in Legislation, Reforms, & Political News | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, March 18, 2019

FL: Prospects for Tort Reform Increase

A newly reconfigured Florida Supreme Court and 6 tort reform bills mean the likelihood of tort reform in Florida has increased.  Newly elected Governor DeSantis made 3 appointments to the high court, turning a 4-3 conservative minority into a 6-1 majority.  There are 4 House bills and two in the Senate proposing tort reform.  Among other provisions, the bills would cap pain-and-suffering damages at $1M, without the jury being informed, and reform "bad faith" suits.  Florida Watchdog has details.

March 18, 2019 in Legislation, Reforms, & Political News | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, February 28, 2019

MO: Joinder and J&J

     Earlier this month, I reported that tort reform bills had been filed again in Missouri to alter liberal joinder rules in that state.  In the meantime, the Missouri Supreme Court ruled that allowing a non-resident to participate in joined cases was a violation of state law prohibiting the use of joinder to allow courts to hear cases they otherwise would not be able to.  The ruling may eliminate or reduce the pressure to pass legislation.  One company that may be particularly affected is J&J, a New Jersey-based company defending cases that talc included in its baby powder causes cancer.  In a December report, Reuters stated that J&J knew that talc in its baby powder tested positive for asbestos from the 1970s to the early 2000s.  J&J is facing about 13,000 cases over the issue, most of which have been consolidated in federal court in New Jersey.  The Missouri Supreme Court's ruling is potentially good news for J&J:

The St. Louis court has been a venue for more talc trials and has seen larger verdicts than any other jurisdiction. Outside of St. Louis, the only other significant talc verdicts against J&J to date have come in lawsuits filed by individual plaintiffs in New Jersey and California, where the company is currently facing jury verdicts totalling $142 million.

Tina Bellon at the Insurance Journal has the story.

February 28, 2019 in Current Affairs, Legislation, Reforms, & Political News | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, February 20, 2019

PA: Med Mal Venue Decision Delayed

Two weeks ago, I reported that the Pennsylvania Supreme Court was considering an alteration of venue rules for medical malpractice cases.  In the early 2000's, the court restricted venue to the place of the wrong to prevent plaintiffs from venue-shopping.  The court is considering a removal of this restriction, which is not in place for other types of cases.  The court has now agreed to delay action until the issue can be studied by the Legislative Budget and Finance Committee; the report is due by January 1, 2020.  Pennlive has details.

February 20, 2019 in Current Affairs, Legislation, Reforms, & Political News | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, February 15, 2019

AR: Proposed Constitutional Amendment to Allow Damages Limits

After a multi-year saga in which ballot initiatives to amend the state constitution were struck down, new bills have been filed in Arkansas.  These bills, like prior ones, would amend the state constitution to allow caps on non-economic and punitive damages.  Unlike prior bills, control over procedure in state courts is not shifted to the legislature.  KAIT8 has details.

February 15, 2019 in Legislation, Reforms, & Political News | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, February 13, 2019

Silver, Hyman & Black on the 2003 Texas Med Mal Reforms

Charles Silver, David Hyman, and Bernard Black have posted to SSRN Fictions and Facts:  Medical Malpractice Litigation, Physician Supply, and Health Care Spending in Texas Before and After HB 4The abstract provides:

This article, written for a symposium issue of the Texas Tech Law Review, summarizes our research on the impact of Texas’ 2003 medical malpractice (“med mal”) reform. Our central findings include:

(1) there were no major changes in the frequency of med mal claims, payout per claim, total payouts, defense costs, or jury verdicts that can explain the spike in premiums for med mal liability insurance that occurred in Texas in the years before the 2003 reforms;

(2) Texas’ supply of direct patient care physicians grew steadily, at similar rates, in both the pre- and post-reform periods, despite politician’s claims that physicians fled Texas before reform and flocked back thereafter;

(3) although the damage caps adopted in Texas and other states greatly reduced the volume of malpractice litigation and payouts to patients, neither in Texas nor in other states have damage caps moderated the growth of health care spending;

(4) the savings in liability costs generated by the Texas reforms were shared between physicians and their insurers, with the former paying lower premiums and the latter collecting more premium dollars relative to dollars paid out on claims; and

(5) there is evidence that when liability rules are relaxed, hospital safety records gradually deteriorate.

February 13, 2019 in Conferences, Legislation, Reforms, & Political News, Scholarship | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, February 11, 2019

MS: Premises Liability Reform Bills

Premises liability reform bills have been introduced in the Mississippi House and Senate.  In Mississippi, if a plaintiff sues for the attack of a third party on defendant's premises, the jury cannot assign a portion of fault to the third-party attacker.  These bills would allow such apportionment.  The bills would make additional changes:

Most importantly, the bills say a property owner is exempt from a lawsuit unless someone can prove they “affirmatively, with a degree of conscious decision-making, impelled the conduct of said third party.” A woman who sues after being attacked in a dark parking lot without security would have to prove that the business knew about the potential harm and let it happen.

They also exempt property owners from liability even if they knew about the violent nature of the third party, and doesn’t allow a plaintiff to establish that there was an atmosphere of violence at a location unless there was similar violent conduct that resulted in three felony convictions on the property within the three prior years. So a nightclub where the police are called to break up fights but people aren’t charged and convicted of felonies could be exempt, for example, if someone was hurt there later.

The Mississippi Business Journal has the story.

February 11, 2019 in Legislation, Reforms, & Political News | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, February 8, 2019

MO: Joinder Tort Reform Bill Filed Again

For the past several years, tort reform advocates in Missouri have filed bills to restrict mass tort filings.  One of those bills has been filed again.  The Houston Herald explains:

Now a Senate bill, sponsored by Sen. Ed Emery, R-Lamar, once again seeks to change what are known as “joinder” rules in Missouri.

Currently, someone can join someone else’s lawsuit over a tort — or harm — as long as they are suing over the same facts, about the same product or service and out of the same series of transactions. Joint cases can be tried in any Missouri court as long as one of the plaintiffs has standing to sue in that court — meaning that they live there, that the incident occurred there or that the company is located there.

If Senate Bill 7 were to pass, chances for plaintiffs to join cases would shrink. Most cases could only be joined and tried in a court where all plaintiffs are allowed to sue.

Courts in St. Louis are especially exploited due to plaintiff-friendly juries.  This dispute has shades of the medical malpractice venue controversy in Pennsylvania, in which tort reform advocates attempt to keep med mal cases out of Philadelphia.

The full story is here.

February 8, 2019 in Legislation, Reforms, & Political News | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, February 6, 2019

Database of State Tort Law Reforms

Ronen Avraham has posted to SSRN Database of State Tort Law Reforms (6.1).  The abstract provides:

This manuscript of the DSTLR (6th) updates the DSTLR (5th) and contains the most detailed, complete and comprehensive legal dataset of the most prevalent tort reforms in the United States between 1980 and 2018. The DSTLR has been downloaded more than 2700 times and has become the standard tool in empirical research of tort reform. The dataset records state laws in all fifty states and the District of Columbia over the last several decades. For each reform we record the effective date, a short description of the reform, whether or not the jury is allowed to know about the reform, whether the reform was upheld or struck down by the states’ courts, as well as whether it was amended by the state legislator. Scholarship studying the empirical effects of tort reforms relies on various datasets, (tort reforms datasets and other legal compilations). Some of the datasets are created and published independently and some of them are created ad-hoc by the researchers. The usefulness of these datasets frequently suffers from various defects. They are often incompatible and do not accurately record judicial invalidation of laws. Additionally, they frequently lack reforms adopted before 1986, amendments adopted after 1986, court-based reforms, and effective dates of legislation. It is possible that some of the persisting variation across empirical studies about the effects of tort reforms might be due to the variations in legal datasets used by the studies. This dataset builds upon and improves existing data sources. It does so through a careful review of original legislation and case law to determine the exact text and effective dates. The fifth draft corrects errors that were found in the fourth draft, focuses only on the most prevalent reforms, and standardizes the descriptions of the reforms. A link to an Excel file which codes ten reforms found in DSTLR (6th) can be found here: http://www.utexas.edu/law/faculty/ravraham/dstlr.html.
It is hoped that creating one “canonized” dataset will increase our understanding of tort reform’s impacts on our lives..

February 6, 2019 in Legislation, Reforms, & Political News | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, February 5, 2019

Zabinski & Black: Med Mal Caps Diminish Deterrent Effect

Zenon Zabinski & Bernard Black have posted to SSRN The Deterrent Effect of Tort Law:  Evidence from Medical Malpractice Reform.  The abstract provides:

We examine whether caps on non-economic damages in medical malpractice cases affect in-hospital patient safety. We use Patient Safety Indicators (PSIs) — measures of adverse events — as proxies for safety. In difference-in-differences (DiD) analyses of five states that adopt caps during 2003-2005, we find that patient safety gradually worsens after cap adoption, relative to control states. Standard DiD inference can be unreliable with a small number of treated units. We therefore develop a randomization inference-based test for DiD statistical inference with few treated units but multiple, potentially correlated outcomes, and confirm statistical strength with this nonparametric approach.

February 5, 2019 in Legislation, Reforms, & Political News, Scholarship | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, February 4, 2019

PA: Med Mal Reform on Venue?

Yesterday's The Patriot-News (Harrisburg) featured a front-page article by David Wenner entitled "Is the deck stacked against patients?".  In 2002, during the middle of an alleged crisis in malpractice, the legislature passed a law that, among other things, added a certificate of merit requirement and restricted venue to the place of the alleged malpractice. The latter was largely aimed at keeping cases out of Philadelphia, where juries tend to be more liberal on both liability and damages.  The Pennsylvania Supreme Court adopted the venue restriction into the rules of civil procedure, fixing a constitutional problem with the legislation.  Since the reforms, the number of cases filed in Pennsylvania has been cut nearly in half.  A committee of the Supreme Court is now considering eliminating the rule against venue shopping.  The article contains prominent voices on both sides of the issue debating the merits.

February 4, 2019 in Current Affairs, Legislation, Reforms, & Political News | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, January 16, 2019

Robinette & Wachtel on Kentucky Holding Medical Malpractice Panels Unconstitutional

I have been fortunate to have a series of very talented research assistants over the years.  One of my current RAs, Dani Wachtel, and I wrote a short piece for Insurance Journal on the Kentucky Supreme Court striking down med mal review panels as unconstitutional. 

January 16, 2019 in Legislation, Reforms, & Political News | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, January 11, 2019

KY: Bill Would Amend Constitution to Allow Tort Reform

Sen. Ralph Alvarado has filed a bill to amend Kentucky's constitution to allow the General Assembly to create statutes of limitation for civil actions involving death, personal injury and property damage and to set limits on non-economic damages in civil cases.  Last year a similar bill failed to get out of committee.  Sen. Alvarado was the sponsor of the medical malpractice panels law that was enacted in 2017 and struck down by the Kentucky Supreme Court in November.  Louisville Business First has the story.

January 11, 2019 in Legislation, Reforms, & Political News | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, December 28, 2018

SELF DRIVE Act Dies in the Senate

The shutdown is getting the most attention right now, but one of the bills that died when the Senate adjourned last week was the SELF DRIVE Act, designed to regulate and create federal safety standards for self-driving cars.  Politico had an article summarizing the fate of various bills, and it said this about the SELF DRIVE Act:

— Self-driving, but not self-passing: Senators conceded earlier this week that the SELF DRIVE Act, H.R. 3388 (115), would not be passed in 2018. House Energy and Commerce Chairman Greg Walden (R-Ore.) called it "extremely disappointing that the Senate will not be able to finish its work on self-driving car legislation this year.” The proposal would regulate and create federal safety standards for self-driving cars.

December 28, 2018 in Legislation, Reforms, & Political News | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, December 19, 2018

FDA Withdraws Proposal for Liability for Generic Drug Makers

The Supreme Court's preemption cases shield generic pharmaceutical manufacturers from liability.  In 2013, the FDA proposed a new federal rule that would have allowed liability against manufacturers of generic drugs.  Last week, the FDA withdrew that proposal.  The Wall Street Journal has details.

December 19, 2018 in Legislation, Reforms, & Political News, Products Liability | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, December 18, 2018

OH: Non-economic Damages Cap Applies to Defamation Cases

Earlier this month, the Supreme Court of Ohio ruled that the statutory cap on non-economic damages applies to compensatory damages awarded in defamation cases.  At Legally Speaking Ohio, Marianna Bettman has analysis.

December 18, 2018 in Damages, Legislation, Reforms, & Political News | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, December 17, 2018

50-State Survey of Damage Caps and the Collateral Source Rule

Thursday, December 6, 2018

Puerto Rico Adopts Med Mal Panels

Puerto Rico's governor signed a law creating 13 panels composed of 3 people--including a health expert, a public advocate, and a lawyer or former judge--to review medical malpractice claims.  Claimants, with an exclusion for the indigent, will be required to post a bond-like payment with the panel.  If the panel finds evidence of malpractice, the money will be returned.  The governor hopes it will stem the exodus of doctors from Puerto Rico; of the approximately 1,000 claims each year, 900 are dismissed.  

The exodus from Puerto Rico is widespread, and is largely caused by a weak economy and damage from recent hurricanes.   There are better ways to handle a number of weak claims than adding another layer of delay for all claims, including the good ones.  (It is important to remember that studies also suggest a large number of valid claims are never filed.)  For example, a certificate of merit requirement is more relevant handling the precise problem.

The Province has details.

December 6, 2018 in Legislation, Reforms, & Political News | Permalink | Comments (0)