The Senate approved legislation introduced by Senator Elder Vogel addressing punitive damages awards against personal care facilities on Thursday (June 25) by a vote of 40-9.

Senate Bill 747 requires the state Insurance Commissioner to investigate the awarding of punitive damages in cases brought within the health care industry over the past 10 years and caps punitive damages in cases against personal care homes, assisted living communities, long-term care nursing facilities and their employees and officials at 250 percent of the compensatory damages awarded in a lawsuit.

“I appreciate the support of my colleagues for this bill, especially Senate President Pro Joe Scarnati and Banking and Insurance Committee Chairman Don White. Frivolous lawsuits are draining valuable resources from the state and impacting our ability to provide essential care for our citizens,” Senator Vogel said. “Without controls in place, care providers can face unlimited amounts of punitive damages. That risk is so great that most will be forced to settle cases that normally they would not. This won’t stop justified cases from being filed, but will reduce the frivolous cases.”

The cap on punitive damages was sparked by the actions of a Florida-based law firm which placed ads in newspapers, targeting Pennsylvania care facilities.  The Pennsylvania Health Care Association has tracked 33 full-page advertisements attacking over 40 nursing facilities just since the beginning of 2015. Resulting lawsuits from similar ads drained more than $91 million from the state in 2013, money that could have been better utilized for patient care.

Contact:          Cheryl Schriner           (717) 787-3076