Committee Approves Caps on Punitive Damages Against Care
The Senate Banking and Insurance Committee, which I chair,
approved legislation on Tuesday that would place caps on punitive damages
against personal care facilities.
The caps were amended into
Senate Bill 747, a bill that would require the state insurance
Commissioner to investigate the awarding of punitive damages in cases
brought within the health care industry over the past 10 years.
The amendment caps punitive damages in cases against
personal care homes, assisted living communities, long-term care nursing
facilities and their employees and officials at 200 percent of the
compensatory damages awarded in a lawsuit. This provision would be
consistent with the cap currently placed on punitive damages awarded against
The amendment was sparked by the actions of a Florida-based
law firm that placed ads in newspapers listing Pennsylvania care facilities
that had been cited for “violations.” 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
these ads drained more than $91 million from the state in 2013.
I have personally experienced a case involving members of my
immediate family in which an individual trolled the halls of a personal care
facility soliciting cases of perceived negligence or malfeasance.
“It has impacted our ability to take care of our patients in
a very negative way,” Senator White said of lawyers that file tort cases
against care facilities. “They’re out there looking for problems, not
The committee also approved
Senate Bill 861, a measure I introduced that clarifies liability issues
in cases involving auto dealership loaner vehicles.
Both bills now go to the full Senate for consideration.
here for video of my comments on Senate Bill 747. (Audio)
here for video of the complete Banking and Insurance Committee meeting.
Senate Approves Animal Cruelty Prevention Bills
The Senate approved a package of bills on Wednesday intended
to help prevent animal cruelty.
Senate Bill 78 targets kennel owners who lose their license due to
violations of the Dog Law. The legislation would prevent violators from
continuing to operate a kennel at the same location by having a license
issued to an immediate family member or another individual who resides at
the same address.
Senate Bill 294 addresses the enforcement and application of
Pennsylvania’s cruelty laws, particularly as they pertain to horses. It
better defines “torture” and provides appropriate penalties based on
language drafted with the assistance of the Farm Bureau. The bill also
provides for the seizure of animals in extreme instances of torture or
Senate Bill 373 strengthens laws regarding the tethering of dogs. It
also adds a provision regarding shelter for dogs and cats to ensure that
they are protected against inclement weather, kept dry and allowed to
maintain their normal body temperatures.
Senate Bill 594 adds a section to Pennsylvania's Animal Cruelty Law to
specifically address when it happens in a domestic-violence situation. Under
the legislation, if a person with a protection-from-abuse order against them
commits animal cruelty against the pet of their spouse or partner, they
would face a minimum monetary fine of $2,000 and a maximum fine of $15,000.
Other bills approved by the Senate this week and sent to the
House of Representatives for consideration include:
Senate Bill 305, which allows pharmacists who have met certain
requirements and follow certain protocols to provide influenza immunizations
Senate Bill 695, which requires lobbyists and lobbying firms to
register and file reports electronically through the computerized system
developed by the Pennsylvania Department of State.
Senate Bill 490, which includes the PEMA Director as a position subject
to review and confirmation by the Senate. Currently, the post is filled by
appointment by the Governor.
Committee Sends 911 Reauthorization Measure to Senate
The Senate Veterans Affairs & Emergency Preparedness
Committee unanimously approved
House Bill 911, which would reauthorize the Emergency 9-1-1 System in
Pennsylvania, on Tuesday.
The current fee on wireless devices is set to expire on June
30, 2015, unless the law is reauthorized. House Bill 911 would set the fee
at $1.65 a month per device. The bill was amended by the Committee to
*Establishing an advisory board consisting of public and
*Ensuring a higher percentage of funding is distributed to
*Requiring PEMA to conduct a thorough audit and inventory of
all county 911 centers and equipment.
*Requiring PEMA and the advisory board to study future
methods of funding the 911 system.
*Establishing a county buy-in provision.
The changes were the result of the two hearings the
Committee held on the bill and input provided by a number of individuals and
The Committee also approved
Senate Bill 299, legislation that would allow municipalities to provide
tax credits to volunteer firefighters and nonprofit EMS providers, and
Senate Bill 370, legislation I introduced that allows volunteer fire
companies that merge and receive funds through the Fire and EMS Grant
Program for up to ten years.
House Bill 911 and Senate Bills 299 and 370 now go to the
full Senate for consideration.
Senate Confirms Cabinet Secretaries
The Senate confirmed seven cabinet nominations this week.
On Tuesday, the Senate approved the nominations of Pedro
Cortes as Secretary of Department of State, Ted Dallas as Secretary of Human
Services, Cindy Dunn as Secretary of Conservation and Natural Resources and
Robin Wiessmann as Secretary of Banking and Securities.
On Wednesday, the Senate approved the nominations of Teresa
Miller as Insurance Commissioner, Pedro Rivera as Secretary of Education and
John Quigley as Secretary of Environmental Protection.
on issues that were raised about his oversight of the Department of State
under the Rendell Administration, I voted against the confirmation of
Cortes, but supported the other nominees.