Monday, January 7, 2019

LET YOUR VOICE BE HEARD: Comment Period Open on Proposed Rule Changes on Venue (Most Pertinent to Medical Malpractice Cases)

Tort Talkers may recall Tort Reform movements from the around the turn of the century when changes were made in response to the number of medical malpractice claims that were being pursued at that time.

The venue rules adopted in 2002 were part of medical malpractice reforms enacted. These venue rules served to lower the number of medical malpractice cases filed in the liberal jurisdiction of Philadelphia by preventing filings there unless the cause of action arose in Philadelphia. 

The impact of these venue rules are summarized in this  REPORT from the PA Supreme Court which tracks the number of medical malpractice cases filed in each county. 

For example, between 2000 and 2002, there was an average of 1204 medical malpractice cases filed in Philadelphia per year. After the change to the venue rules, that figure plunged by half in 2003 and continued to decline until just recently.

Now there is a movement underway by the statewide Civil Rules Committee to revise the Pennsylvania Rules of Civil Procedure in this regard.

The proposed rule changes can be found HERE.

Here is the reasoning from the Explanatory Comment to the proposed rule:

“The current rule provides special treatment of a particular class of defendants, which no longer appears warranted. Data compiled by the Supreme Court on case filings on medical professional liability actions indicates that there has been a significant reduction in those filings for the past 15 years. Additionally, it has been reported to the Committee that this reduction has resulted in a decrease of the amount of claim payments resulting in far fewer compensated victims of medical negligence.”
This raises a debate on whether the venue rules as they stand are working for their intended effect or whether they are still needed given the decrease in medical malpractice claims. 
If you wish to weigh in on this debate the Civil Procedure Rules Committee is taking comments, suggestions, or objections on the proposed rule until February 22, 2019.  The preferred contact is by email. The Committee can be contacted at:

Karla M. Shultz, Counsel Civil Procedural Rules Committee
Supreme Court of Pennsylvania
Pennsylvania Judicial Center
P.O. Box 62635
Harrisburg, PA 17106-2635
FAX: 717-231-9526

I send thanks to Attorney James M. Beck of the Philadelphia office of the Reed Smith Law firm and writer of the excellent Drug and Device Law Blog for bringing this trend to my attention.

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