The PA Supreme Court last week reversed a rule it had issued two decades ago providing that medical malpractice cases be heard in the county where the alleged injury occurred. In returning to the pre-2002 standard, the Court acquiesced to trial lawyers anxious to regain the ability to file cases from around the state in Philadelphia.
PA Chamber President and CEO Luke Bernstein issued the following statement in response:
“Leading up to 2003, Pennsylvania was facing a shortage of physicians due to skyrocketing malpractice premium costs and an out-of-control litigation climate. A common tactic for trial lawyers at the time was to get cases moved to counties known for jackpot jury awards. The PA Chamber supported the medical community’s successful efforts to change the state court system’s rules to require complaints to be filed in the county where the alleged injury occurred. Those reforms led to a better climate for doctors and healthcare providers, better access to care for patients and helped control costs on the healthcare system.
Today’s decision by the state supreme court to revert back to the conditions that created a crisis and will only harm providers and further diminish our state’s competitiveness, without serving the interests of patients. We urge the legislature and Wolf Administration to enact legislation establishing fair rules for venue in these types of civil cases.”
The Supreme Court’s alarming move also prompted responses from a range of voices within the medical community, including associations representing doctors and hospitals.
Several bills to address this rule are pending in the General Assembly including H.B. 1540, introduce by State Rep. Donna Oberlander (R-Clarion) and a proposed constitutional amendment offered by House Judiciary Committee Chairman Rob Kauffman (R-Franklin).
If no action is taken the new rules will be effective January 1, 2023 and apply to causes of action that occurred before 2023.