Statute of Repose (limits on discovery) – Yanakos v. UPMC Decision

Bottom Line:  As a result of a decision by the PA Supreme Court in the case of Yanakos v. UPMC, the court ruled that the 7-year limitation on discovery (also known as the statute of repose) that limits discovery for medical malpractice cases is unconstitutional, and opened the door for questioning other provisions of the MCARE Act, including the Certificate of Merit and caps on punitive damages provisions. 

Brief Background: On Friday, November 1, the PA State Supreme Court, in a split 4-3 decision, ruled the statute of repose provisions in the MCARE Act are unconstitutional, throwing out another key piece of the med mal landscape.

It its majority decision, written by Justice Mundy, the Court adopted different standards of review stating that without a legislative history regarding actuarial certainty of economic benefit, the law was unconstitutional.  The Court ruled that the statute of repose provisions could not (of and by itself) justify the economic rationale for the Act, nor did it meet the goal of reducing insurance premiums.  The court tied its decision solely to a determination whether economic justification for the statute of repose language was met (whether the multiple bases for grounding a statute of repose in the package, stale claims, old claims, process difficulties, memories, lost documents, etc.)

The fundamental purpose was predictability and stability in markets, not economics.  And the Court asked for sufficient legislative history to justify economics based on this one section.  That’s an impossible burden of proof to demonstrate why 7 years vs. some other length was valid. That was a decision negotiated by an interbranch commission that included the Governor, Attorney General and Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, and was based on Pennsylvania law requiring health care providers to retain medical records for a minimum of seven years.  A major concern is that using similar “logic” this new court will make the proposed change and reverse existing law for venue, caps on damages and Certificates of Merit.
 
PA-ACP met with the PA Coalition for Civil Justice Reform (PCCJR) and its board, and separately on a conference call with more than a dozen interested parties, including both the PA Medical Society and the PA Orthopaedic Society (POS). 

UPMC filed a motion for reconsideration on November 14. Separately, the PCCJR (along with HAP, NFIB, the Insurance Federation of PA, Curi, the Doctors’ Company and others) and the AMA/PA Med have filed amicus curiae briefs to request reconsideration of the Court decision.

What is PA-ACP doing?  PA-ACP has joined with the POS, the Pennsylvania Defense Institute and the PA-AAP to file an amicus curiae brief supporting the UPMC filing, requesting reconsideration of the decision and justification for that decision.  PA-ACP has also placed a priority on action with the General Assembly if the Court refuses to reconsider its decision.

For More information:
Press Release re PA-ACP’s amicus filing