Venue shopping is a well-used tool in the trial lawyer playbook, where plaintiffs’ lawyers “shop” cases by filing them in jurisdictions with reputations for awarding large verdicts, even if the case has no relation to where the claim was filed. When plaintiffs’ lawyers venue shop, courts can become overwhelmed with lawsuits, making it almost impossible for plaintiffs and defendants to have their disputes resolved in a timely manner.
In January, Pennsylvania changed its venue rule and eliminated the requirement that medical liability cases can only be filed where the cause of action occurred. Now plaintiffs’ attorneys can file claims where the defendant has a business interest or where they can be served. As a result, the Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas has experienced a sharp increase in the number of medical liability cases, which benefits plaintiffs’ lawyers who can score a mega-verdict payday from venue shopping to the detriment of our healthcare system, access to healthcare, and a fair civil justice system.
Fortunately, the Pennsylvania Coalition for Civil Justice Reform (PCCJR) is raising alarm bells about this disturbing trend. PCCJR has asked the state Supreme Court’s Civil Procedural Rules Committee to quickly review the impact of this rule change rather than wait until the initially planned two years after the new rule was implemented.
- The Philadelphia Court system was already struggling with its medical malpractice caseload and now has skyrocketed with medical malpractice cases backlogging the system:
- The 2023 and 2024 trial calendars are nearly fully scheduled with medical malpractice cases, and there are nearly three years’ worth of medical malpractice cases already filed in Philadelphia courts, according to Judge Daniel Anders of the Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas.
- Between January and May 2023, 258 medical liability cases were filed in the Court of Common Pleas, compared to 275 total in all of 2022.
- With the increase in doctors and hospitals from other parts of the state being sued in Philadelphia, there has been a correlation between high jury verdicts and medical malpractice premiums, increasing the cost of their liability insurance.
The Committee should issue a report as soon as possible to determine whether the rule should be rescinded or needs restrictions to ensure that Pennsylvanians have access to a fair and functional court to resolve disputes.
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