Tort Reform – Keep It a State Issue

The US House health care bill not only has little significant tort reform, it in fact limits states from enacting meaningful tort reform. This statement taken directly from the text of the health care bill, stipulates that a state “Medical Liability Alternatives” will only be supported if “the law does not limit attorneys’ fees or impose caps on damage.”

The talk of tort reform has been doing the rounds, with the media giving it some attention. However, the talk rarely centers around the need for federalism in dealing with tort law.

Medical malpractice tort law has always been maintained at the state level.The vast majority of states have statutes of limitation of two years for standard medical malpractice claims. Over half of the states have limits on damages awards. Almost all states have eliminated joint and several liability in malpractice lawsuits (Pennsylvania being a rare exception), and many states have established limits on attorney fees.

Pennsylvania has been a laggard in terms of meaningful tort reform. This has led doctors to leave the state and health care more expensive, making Pennsylvania less competitive. Leaving tort reform to states increases competition while lowering costs of health care.