Roughly 100 possible jurors were in attendance in the preliminary phase of a medical malpractice trial in Berks County Court. Craig MacGregor, the plaintiff, had brought the suit against Reading Hospital, a 695-bed facility that is part of the Reading Heath System. Judge Timothy Rowley released the jurors when he notified the court that a settlement agreement had been reached. MacGregor fell in his home located in Wyomissing and was taken to Reading, where numerous scans and tests were performed. The physicians indicated that MacGregor appeared to have no serious medical concerns. Approximately three years later, a doctor who was reviewing MacGregor’s records noticed a marble-sized formation on a lung. In the meanwhile, the mass had progressed to the size of a baseball and cancerous cells had stretched near his brain. MacGregor is still considered to be the bass player for the rock band Foghat, yet has been unable to perform based on his condition. His attorney stated that the settlement details are confidential.
Pennsylvania Medical Malpractice Overview
In 2002, the state implemented The Medical Care Availability and Reduction of Error Fund (Mcare) to replace some liability and catastrophe plans that were outdated. Mcare is designed to provide compensation for injury victims resulting from actions of medical negligence. The fund supplements claims for damages which are awarded in liability cases by paying amounts that exceed the limits of liability insurance policies. The program has three primary components:
- Claims: When a malpractice claim is filed against a health care provider or hospital, Mcare may be involved in facilitating the process to varying degrees. The plan often provides mediation services and creates a forum for alternate resolution of disputes.
- Compliance: Handles enforcement of requirements that all providers maintain insurance for professional liability. If unable to confirm that coverage is in place, they will inform the licensing board of the need for suspension.
- Provider Coverage: The Mcare funding used to compensate claimants is obtained solely through the medical providers and does not receive allocations from the state’s General Fund.
Responsibilities for Financial Compensation
Health care service providers must maintain a minimum of $500,000 in coverage per event, which is subject to change annually. Once the insurer pays the $500,000 limit, Mcare assumes payment for the excess amount up to a $500,000 limit. In suits where a physician and a hospital are named defendants, the fund would assume responsibility for a $500,000 excess on behalf of both parties. Cases in Pennsylvania must begin within a two-year period–the statute of limitations. The state does not have a cap on the amount of awards for compensatory damages that victims may recover. Punitive damages may be recovered in cases where the defendant acted in a willful or intentional manner. The limitation on punitive awards is equivalent to 200% of the award for compensatory damages.