The number of medical malpractice cases has plunged in Pennsylvania since the state changed two procedures. State statistics report 1,602 cases were filed in 2008, a 41% decline from the base years of 2000-2002.

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Since 2003, Pennsylvania courts have required malpractice plaintiffs to file certificates of merit in which a medical expert attests that the applicable standard of care was violated.

But besides targeting frivolous lawsuits, the reforms also put a stop to “venue shopping.” Lawyers must now file complaints in the county where the incident occurred. Previously, any court in the state could have jurisdiction.

Many lawyers chose to file in Philadelphia, where settlements and verdicts tended to be higher, creating the highest caseload in Pennsylvania. The 2008 statistics show a decrease there of 54%, compared with the base period.

“These statistics provide additional evidence that the sharp decline in medical malpractice litigation, which began in 2003, was not a temporary correction, but a sustained and stable response to the procedural rule changes,” observes Chief Justice Ronald D. Castille.