Rule Change Affecting Malpractice Cases in Pennsylvania Could be Coming
In December the State Civil Court Committee suggested a change to a Supreme Court rule in place since 2003. The rule limits lawsuits to only be filed in places where an incident is alleged to have occurred. The proposed change would allow lawyers to file a suit where the litigant resides or where a medical facility is based, which was previously possible before 2003. It is receiving resistance from the Pennsylvania Coalition for Civil Justice, whose executive director, Curt Schroder, has said that the proposed rule change is unnecessary. He and the organization support the rule change that happened in 2003 because they feel like it helped end attorney venue shopping.
Statistics from the administrative office of Pennsylvania Courts from 2000 to 2002 showed that around 44 percent of malpractice cases in Pennsylvania were filed in Philadelphia. Philadelphia was the preferred location for these suits because jury verdicts tend to favor plaintiffs and have higher awards in money damages. Other urban counties including Allegheny had a large caseload of malpractice cases because the verdicts were also expected to favor plaintiffs.
Opponents to the end of the rule say the venue limits worked because there were fewer malpractice cases in Pennsylvania and Philadelphia. In 2017 there were a total of 1,449 malpractice cases filed in Pennsylvania, with 28 percent of them filed in Philadelphia. Malpractice suits also decreased in Western Pennsylvania, with a 43 percent reduction in Allegheny County and a 58 percent reduction in Westmoreland County since 2002.
Schroder said he does not want to see the conditions that led to a malpractice crisis in the early 2000s recreated. The rule change was supposed to change this year but the decision was delayed in February. A decision is expected next year after a study of the rule change’s effects on the court system is finished.
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