PA-ACP to fight Court rule allowing med mal venue shopping


The PA-ACP promises to fight an action by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court rescinding a 20 year old rule that was part of agreements made to resolve a crisis in medical malpractice that was driving physicians out of the state, skyrocketing premiums and harming access to health care.

The current county venue rule was implemented in 2003 as skyrocketing medical liability premiums forced physicians to retire early, maternity wards to close, high-risk specialties to curtail services and residents to seek employment elsewhere, all making access to quality health care scarce. Act 13 of 2002 created a commission that recommended eliminating venue shopping in med mal cases, and the Supreme Court acknowledged that venue shopping was rampant and causing great damage to health care.  They enacted a rule requiring cases to be filed in the county in which the alleged incident occurred instead of allowing those suits to be filed in a few counties like Philadelphia that have extreme percentages of jury verdicts and high payouts.

PA-ACP President Larry Jones said, “PA-ACP has opposed changing this rule since it’s proposal in late 2018, testifying to the General Assembly, testifying and providing information to the Legislative Budget and Finance Committee, urging actuarial studies and supporting legislation to give the legislature control over venue rules.  We will continue to advocate on behalf of our members to get this rule reinstated as quickly as possible through all avenues and any available means, including legislation and constitutional amendments if necessary.”

“The Court’s action threatens the safety and health of millions of Pennsylvanians, and largely benefits one class – trial lawyers.”  Maintaining access to affordable, quality health care is too important to risk for a few dollars.  PA-ACP urges the General Assembly to take action to check the Court’s unilateral action and assert its authority to set venue policy – whether through HB 2660, or some other action.

Dr. Jones said, “The health care crisis in the state caused the executive, legislative and judicial branches to all work together to stop venue shopping in medical liability cases.  When the rule was implemented, it did –- and has continued to help, as the number of medical liability cases filed in Philadelphia plummeted and medical liability premiums stabilized.  The Court’s action threatens to reverse that stability.”

Even so, Pennsylvania already has the second highest medical malpractice payouts in the nation.  And with this rule, the Supreme Court is now letting trial lawyers steer cases to high verdict courts, even though an actuarial report commissioned by Senate Judiciary Chair Lisa Baker, found a rule reversal would lead to a substantial increase in premiums.  “Access to affordable, quality health care – at all levels from primary care to specialty and surgical care – is critical, and should not be threatened by giving trial lawyers a way to take an action in Blair County to a jury in Philadelphia or Pittsburgh,”  Jones said.

The PA Coalition for Civil Justice Reform’s Executive Director Curt Schroder said, “If plaintiffs’ attorneys are truly concerned about recovering for their injured clients, they could ensure the plaintiff takes home more by reducing the percentage of their contingency fee.  That would provide a substantial boost in the portion of the recovery benefiting the plaintiff.  The fact that they refuse to reduce contingency fees exposes the lie in their argument that they “care.”  The trial bar’s true interest is in lining their own pockets.”