PA Supreme Court Approves Venue Restriction Amendments for Med Mal Claims

The Pennsylvania Supreme Court recently removed the venue restrictions for medical malpractice claims filed within the Commonwealth, according to a Philadelphia medical malpractice lawyer. The amendments approved on August 24th will empower plaintiffs to sue medical providers in counties that they regularly conduct business or have significant contacts. The new rule becomes effective on January 1, 2023. A Philadelphia medical malpractice lawyer applauds this amendment as a landmark victory for victims of medical negligence and malpractice.

Previously, plaintiffs were restricted to filing medical malpractice cases only in the counties where the medical malpractice occurred. These rules were enacted twenty years ago under the Medical Care Availability and Reduction of Error Act (“MCARE Act”) that sought to decrease to the amount of medical malpractice claims in Pennsylvania. The 2002 MCARE Act culminated in the passage of Pa.R.C.P. 1006(a).1 which required that “a medical professional liability action may be brought against a health care provider for a medical professional liability claim only in a county in which the cause of action arose.”  Largely, this regulation required that plaintiffs of a medical malpractice case file the claim in the county where the negligent care happened.

According to a Philadelphia medical malpractice lawyer, the venue rule aimed to reduce frivolous medical malpractice cases and save insurers money by reducing the size of the awards to injured parties. The expectation was that juries in less populous counties would be more likely to find for defendants or award lower damages than their counterparts in more populous counties. The legislation was an overarching success at achieving this goal, with average annual malpractice claims dropping by 44% after the statute’s enactment.

A Philadelphia medical malpractice lawyer has voiced that the venue rule was overly restrictive and severely limited the ability of injured medical malpractice victims to achieve remedy through the courts. Malpractice victims were often forced to go to trial in a county where the hospital was a significant employer, putting the plaintiff at a disadvantage before a jury. Many of these victims had endured catastrophic injuries that substantially decreased their quality of life and resulted in extensive medical treatments, pain, and suffering. The statute failed consider the reality that no financial remedy for medical malpractice victims can fully offset the suffering that they have endured. Additionally, defendant’s concerns about frivolous lawsuits are largely counteracted by legal requirements of certifications of merit from licensed health professionals for a malpractice claim to proceed.

The new amendment removes the Pa.R.C.P. 1006(a.1) venue restrictions. Plaintiffs now have options for where they can file a medical malpractice case including:

  • In any county in which care occurred
  • A county where a defendant could be served
  • In a county where a transaction or occurrence prompting the claim happened

This change will put an end to the disparate treatments of medical malpractice treatments as it pertains to venue for claims. Instead, medical malpractice claims will be subject to the same venue rules applicable to other professional liability and tort claims.

A report penned by the Pennsylvania Legislative Budget and Finance recognized that a change to the venue rule may impact the malpractice insurance market, but that data did not support that a change to the venue rule would impact overall health care costs or physician retention. The Pennsylvania Supreme Court’s Procedure Rules Committee wrote “it is suggested that efforts are better focused on reducing the occurrence of negligence rather than limit liability after the negligence.”

Only time will tell how liberally the courts will construe the application of this statute.  Some Philadelphia medical malpractice lawyers anticipate that issues such as forum non conveniens may come to rise in the upcoming years. With the effective date for the rule change upcoming, lobbyists for large health care conglomerates and insurance companies are already up in arms and advocating to reinstate the venue restriction. Additionally, lawmakers have called for a constitutional amendment to allow legislators to establish venue rules in Pennsylvania, rather than the Supreme Court. For the time being, however, victims of medical malpractice will see positive impacts from the statute change.

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If you are victim of medical malpractice in Pennsylvania or New Jersey, contact the Philadelphia personal injury lawyers at the Wieand Law Firm, LLC. Our lawyers have litigated high value claims for medical malpractice victims.

Many victims feel overwhelmed. With mounting medical bills and care needs, it can be hard to know where to start. We recommend a free consultation to learn more about your legal rights. Once you are armed with information about filing a claim, you can move confidently forward in seeking remedies for your damages. Because we understand that legal bills are the last thing you need to worry about, our lawyers operate on a contingency fee basis for medical malpractice cases. This means that we only earn a fee if we win money for you.

There are statutes of limitation on the time that you have to file a claim, so we recommend calling an attorney as soon as feasible. Our lawyers can even help you to procure your medical records and obtain other supporting evidence you need to achieve the best possible outcome for your claim. Call 215-666-7777 or send us a message via the online form to speak directly with an attorney.

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