The Pennsylvania Medical Society summarized the recent statewide report on cases of medical negligence. In 2017, a total of 102 cases ended in a verdict by a jury, which is roughly 7% less than the previous year. The defense prevailed in approximately 79% of these cases, which is a decline from 84% compared to the previous year.
The volume of medical malpractice cases in the state has declined considerably of the last 15 years. Much of this decline is attributed to increased costs of litigating these actions and more options for arbitration. Other reasons include a requirement that expert witnesses present a certificate of merit and a key law that requires cases to be heard in the county where the alleged incident occurred.
There were 21 cases where the jury sided with the plaintiff and the results are summarized as follows:
Number of Verdicts
Between $500,000 and $1M
Between $1M and $5M
Between $5M and $10M
In 2002, Pennsylvania had their highest volume of medical malpractice litigation. The state became recognized as being high-risk among physicians in medical specialties that were more likely to face allegations of negligence. Many providers chose to practice elsewhere and some hospital maternity wards were closed due to liability concerns. A trend was seen where a massive influx of cases was being filed specifically in Philadelphia. Plaintiffs were choosing this venue because juries tended to award the largest verdicts.
Lawmakers found it obvious that far too many cases were being filed in Philadelphia because of the chance of a large payout. In response, they implemented laws that were determined to “restore fairness” through venue reformation. The problem referred to as “venue shopping” was soon stopped. In recent years many have proposed removing these laws that require plaintiffs to file claims only in the jurisdiction where the medical care and alleged negligence occurred. Many medical advocacy groups have recently spoken out in opposition to such changes.
Results of Implementation
Looking back at the problem, opponents fear that cases will again begin to be transferred to more friendly venues. At the time, the Philadelphia courts were clearly struggling with a disproportionate volume of litigation. The Supreme Court’s decision is estimated to have saved millions of dollars thus far. A report from Penn Live called the reform measure the “single most effective” that was taken in the state. In addition, the number of Pennsylvania medical providers that seek to practice in other states is small.
Pennsylvania Medical Malpractice Overview
Medical malpractice is defined as when a medical professional is deemed to have demonstrated negligence. This happens as a violation (breach) of the standards for care within the profession. The industry maintains these standards that are the generally accepted practices for patient medical care.
Pennsylvania has a program known as the Medical Care Availability and Reduction of Error Fund or “MCARE” that is a government-funded insurance initiative. The state does not impose caps (limits) on the amount of damages that a patient may pursue when bringing a civil claim for an injury or fatality caused by provider negligence.