According to new data released by the Administrative Office of Pennsylvania Courts, medical malpractice lawsuits in the state have dropped to the lowest point since tracking was instituted in 2000.
In 2014, only 1,463 new cases were filed – a 46% decline since 2000 to 2002. In Philadelphia, the judicial district with the most cases, the decline was 68% during that same period. In 2014, there were 382 case filings in Philadelphia, compared with 1,365 in 2003.
The drop in lawsuits is at least partially attributable to two major rule changes regarding medical malpractice cases which were instituted in 2003. The first rule change, aimed at eliminating frivolous lawsuits, requires attorneys to obtain a ‘certificate of merit’ from a medical professional establishing that the medical care in the case fell outside acceptable standards in order to file a malpractice case.
The second change required medical malpractice actions to be brought only in the county where the cause of action took place. The purpose of this change was to eliminate a practice called “venue shopping” where plaintiffs would file cases in counties believed to have more sympathetic juries.
The data also showed that more than 80% of the statewide verdicts in medical malpractice were for the defense, and there were only two verdicts in the entire state that exceeded five million dollars. Out of 18 jury verdicts in Philadelphia, only six were plaintiff verdicts: three were for awards of $500,000 and under and the other three were for awards between one million and five million dollars. The data is available online and can be viewed statewide or on a county by county basis.