One Year In and the Medical Liability Venue Rule Change Has Had Major Impact

On January 1, 2023, the Supreme Court’s reversal of the state’s previous medical liability venue rule went into effect. (As a brief recap: Prior to the rule change, a plaintiff could only file a medical liability complaint in the county where the cause of action arose.) Since that time, the Pennsylvania Coalition for Civil Justice Reform (PCCJR) has been tracking the number of medical liability cases filed in the city of Philadelphia. Additionally, we have analyzed where the cause of action arose by reading the complaints and reviewing docket entries for cases started by Writs of Summons. 

As expected – and as PCCJR repeatedly warned – there was a significant increase in medical malpractice cases filed in Philadelphia. A grand total of 544 medical malpractice cases were filed in Philadelphia in 2023. This averages 45 cases a month. By comparison, 2017 saw 406 cases filed, 2018 saw 418 filed, 2019 saw 407 filed. There was a sharp pandemic related downturn beginning in 2020 which had 348 cases filed, 2021 had 344 cases filed, and 2022 with only 275 filed. 

A review of the causes of action in medical malpractice cases filed in Philadelphia in 2023 reveals that 281 cases had causes of action arising IN the city of Philadelphia, which means they could have been filed there even before the rule change. 197 cases had causes of action arising outside of the city and therefore could NOT have been filed in Philadelphia without the rule change. PCCJR could not determine the cause of action in roughly 67 cases. This is due to some cases starting with a writ of summons which gives the addresses of the parties, but not the factual details of where treatment was rendered, or the alleged injury occurred. Of the cases where we were able to make a venue determination, 41% of the cases had causes of action arising outside of Philadelphia.
The chart to the left is from the Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas and provides the raw number of cases filed each month in 2023 and the grand total.

Along with a rise in the number of medical malpractice cases filed, there has also been an explosive increase in nuclear verdicts in Philadelphia. Last year saw an outrageously high verdict dollar amount awarded to plaintiffs in medical malpractice cases: $278,281,342.00! That is nearly five times the next highest total yearly award from 2016. These figures, as seen in the above chart, were provided by the Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas.PCCJR expects the 2024 filings to be similar in number. We will continue tracking the medical malpractice case activity in Philadelphia in preparation for the two-year review of the rule mandated by the Supreme Court.

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