The Administrative Office of Pennsylvania Courts (AOPC) has recently reported that medical malpractice filings in Pennsylvania have reached a 14 year low. In large part this comes from two changes in the law during this period of time.
The first change required attorneys representing medical malpractice victims to obtain from a medical expert a “certificate of merit.” This requires that with the filing of a lawsuit the plaintiff must have a written opinion from a medical doctor prepared to testify that the medical procedures in a case fall below acceptable medical standards.
A second change in the law requires medical malpractice lawsuits to be brought only in the county where the cause of action, that is, the alleged medical negligence, took place. Before that change in the law, plaintiffs could choose to file their lawsuit in a county which they perceived to have more favorable juries, so long as the defendant doctor or hospital did business in the favorable county.
In addition, the data released by the AOPC also shows more than 81 percent of the medical malpractice verdicts in 2014 were for the defense. Lawyers for plaintiffs in medical malpractice suits pay upfront costs and charge a contingency fee if successful at the end of the case. Bringing a medical malpractice suit can cost well in excess of $250,000. It is unlikely that a plaintiff’s attorney will be willing to spend that kind of money as well as 500 hours or more of their life for a case that has little chance of winning, or where the damages and potential verdict would be relatively low.
These changes in Pennsylvania law have been quite beneficial for Pennsylvania doctors and hospitals, but not so beneficial for Pennsylvania consumers who are the victims of medical malpractice, and the data bear this out.