The Pennsylvania Supreme Court’s Civil Procedural Rules Committee has for the last three years been considering a change to the Medical Liability Venue Rule that would severely hurt healthcare in our state. If adopted, it would usher in a return to venue shopping which targets physicians and other healthcare providers by dragging them into Philadelphia and other hostile court systems. It is time to remove this threat to healthcare in Pennsylvania.
PCCJR is calling on the General Assembly to pass a constitutional amendment to keep the current venue rule in place and prevent rampant forum shopping by opportunistic personal injury lawyers.
By way of background, in 2002 the state Supreme Court adopted a rule requiring medical professional liability actions against health care providers to be brought only in the county where the injury occurs. Prior to this change, Pennsylvania physicians were facing skyrocketing medical malpractice premiums – due in large part to forum shopping by plaintiffs’ attorneys eager to take cases to Philadelphia’s notoriously high-verdict court system in search of a large payday. For the past two decades, this rule helped to right size the Commonwealth’s medical liability environment. However, there is now a serious effort underway to allow for forum shopping once again.
The effects of forum shopping on the state’s already overly litigious civil justice system are real. (For a clear explanation on how venue negatively impacts our civil justice climate, watch our handy video here.) In fact, plaintiffs’ attorneys aren’t even trying to hide the fact that forum shopping plays a significant role in their quest to obtain the highest payday possible. This point was made loud and clear in a blog by a personal injury law firm located in southeast Pennsylvania.
“Philadelphia is always the preferred venue for filing cases because of its reputation for outsized verdicts against corporations…the goal is always to find a way to place your case into Philadelphia if you are a plaintiff’s lawyer. Simply put, the insurers will attach a higher value for the identical case in Philadelphia County than they will in Delaware County,” the blog states.
Pennsylvania can’t afford to go back to the days when forum shopping for medical malpractice cases resulted in unaffordable insurance premiums. Specialists were forced to curtail high-risk but necessary services, maternity wards closed, and the cost of healthcare sky rocketed. Those who acted heroically and served us so well during the height of the pandemic should not be uprooted from their practices to testify in far away jurisdictions at the expense of their patients!
A constitutional amendment will give the General Assembly the authority to prevent needless venue shopping at the expense of your health care.