The Pennsylvania House of Representatives has passed legislation that would prohibit plaintiffs in medical malpractice suits from using apologies from doctors to help prove their case.

The prime sponsor of the bill, State Rep. Keith Gillespie, told the York Daily Record that the legislation does nothing to prevent lawsuits from being filed. He said it simply would allow medical professionals in hospitals and nursing homes to talk openly to families after a bad outcome and to say "I'm sorry."

"It allows them to have this frank, open conversation," Gillespie said.

But the trial lawyers organization Pennsylvania Association for Justice isn't so sure.

Scott Cooper, vice president of the group, warns that the legislation could take away power from
people pursuing a legitimate claim in court.

"It's the devil in the details," said Cooper.

The legislation states that "any benevolent gesture or admission of fault made prior to the
commencement of a medical professional liability action" isn't admissible in a lawsuit over
an "unexpected outcome."

Gillespie said it's part of an overall tort package that Gov. Tom Corbett is pursuing.

Corbett's proposals include a cap on non-economic damages and the repeal of the "joint
and several liability" system where all defendants are responsible for the entire amount of damages being pursued by a plaintiff regardless of their individual responsibility.

Gillespie admitted that some elements of Corbett's plan are controversial, but said the
"apology legislation" isn't one of them. The legislation is now awaiting action in the state Senate.

Similar legislation has passed in 35 other states.

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