In 2004, a Hazelton-area community pool closed after a man jumped into the water, slightly cutting his heel, and then filed a lawsuit claiming $100,000 in damages. While the settlement was significantly less, the owner, fearing future lawsuits, shut down the pool. Now, this once-thriving business, beloved as a summer retreat for families and a source for jobs, is no more.
Unfortunately, this is not an isolated incident in Pennsylvania. As lawsuits for exorbitant damages like this occur too often and are encouraged by current state law, the commonwealth has become a breeding ground for the lawsuit lottery and jackpot justice.
The Pacific Research Institute’s 2010 U.S. Tort Liability Index ranks Pennsylvania 46th of the 50 states in ability to control lawsuit costs. Meanwhile, state residents, doctors, and businesses paid out $7.6 billion in lawsuit awards in 2008, resulting in obscene medical malpractice insurance rates that have stifled doctors’ ability to practice and made the state uncompetitive.
Pennsylvania must follow lawsuit abuse reforms like those recently enacted in other states used to fuel economic growth. Texas has seen the number of medical malpractice suits plummet, and the number of doctors moving to the state skyrocket, since passing lawsuit reform in 2003. Contrast that with Pennsylvania, which has been one of the states least likely to attract new doctors.