Understanding the PA Wherefore Clause in the Complaint of a Personal Injury Case

Updated August 2020

Medical Malpractice

Clients sometimes have questions about the “wherefore clause” in the complaint of a personal injury case. A complaint is a legal document that the lawyer files with the court which starts the process of the lawsuit. The complaint gets filed in the prothonotary’s office in the County (or venue) where the case will proceed.

We Define the Wherefore Clause in Pennsylvania

The “wherefore clause” is the last line of the complaint and it indicates how much money the client is demanding from the defendant. However, in the state of Pennsylvania, lawyers are only allowed to ask for a dollar amount either in excess of $50,000 or less than $50,000. So, even if the plaintiff has a case that is worth a million dollars, by way of example, the wherefore clause will claim damages from the defendant in excess of $50,000.

How Does a Wherefore Clause Affect a Personal Injury Case?

This can initially be confusing for some clients as they believe their case to be worth more than $50,000, and that may be true. However, the Pennsylvania rules do not allow for a specific amount to be requested. By the same token, if there’s a case that was pled as it were for less than $50,000, does that guarantee that my client is going to receive $50,000? No, if the case goes to a jury trial or arbitration or to any other proceeding or settles before a trial, it is possible that it will resolve for less than that amount.

Similarly, if a case is filed and we ask for an amount in excess of $50,000, it may settle for an amount that’s close to $50,000 or much more, depending on whatever the value of the case actually is. The wherefore clause is just a jurisdictional amount that is pled in the complaint. If it’s less than $50,000, it goes into the arbitration system in Pennsylvania. If it’s in excess of $50,000, it automatically goes to a non-jury pool for trial, or it goes into a jury pool. That’s the main distinction.