Medical malpractice lawsuit filings in Pennsylvania have dropped 43% from baseline years of 2000-2002, according to a report from the Administrative Office of Pennsylvania Courts.

Two rule changes, made in 2002, may be largely responsible for the decline. The first change required a case to be precertified by a medical professional prior to filing. Plaintiffs’ attorneys must obtain a “certificate of merit” from a medical professional who is well-versed in the area of the alleged malpractice. The certificate of merit must establish that the medical treatment in the case fell outside of acceptable standards.

The second rule change involved determining where a case could be filed. Medical malpractice cases may only be brought in the county where the injury occurred. This change was meant to prevent what is called “venue shopping,” in which plaintiffs’ attorneys would file lawsuits in areas of the state thought to provide more favorable outcomes.

While the entire state saw a 43% decline in malpractice filings since 2000-2002, Philadelphia, the city with the largest caseload in the state, had a noticeable 68% decline during the same period.

Ann W. Latner, JD, a former criminal defense attorney, is a freelance medical writer in Port Washington, N.Y.