Does an Imbalance on the Civil Rules Committee Spell Doom for PA’s Medical Liability Venue Rule?

Nearly twenty years ago, in an effort to combat a medical liability crisis in the Commonwealth, Pennsylvania Rule of Civil Procedure 1006(a.1) was enacted. This rule requires medical professional liability actions against health care providers to be brought only in the county where the cause of action arose. Prior to this change in 2002, Pennsylvanian physicians were facing skyrocketing medical malpractice premiums – leading many family and specialty practices to close or limit services because it was simply too expensive to operate in the state. Maternity wards closed and patients were left searching for needed medical services.

According to a report by The Pew Charitable Trusts, this crisis was largely fueled by plaintiffs’ attorneys funneling cases to Philadelphia’s notoriously high-verdict court system in search of a large payday. While the 2002 rule change helped to right size Pennsylvania’s medical malpractice environment by eliminating forum shopping, there is an effort to undo this progress. The Supreme Court’s Civil Procedural Rules Committee – which over the past 5 years has become significantly imbalanced, favoring personal injury attorneys – is considering reverting back to the former venue rule. PCCJR Executive Director Curt Schroder delved into the issue and the potential repercussions such a change would have in an opinion piece published by Law360. The piece is reprinted with permission on PCCJR’s website.

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