study shows med mal lawsuits in decline for fifth straight year

A recent report by Ronald D. Castille, Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania, indicates that the number of medical malpractice lawsuits filed in the state has declined for the fifth year in a row. To illustrate, there were approximately 1,533 new medical malpractice lawsuits filed in Pennsylvania courts in 2009, down from 1,602 in 2008 and 2,904 in 2002.

Perhaps even more significant was the decline of new medical malpractice lawsuits filed in the city of Philadelphia, long recognized as the epicenter of sizeable medical malpractice jury awards. Here, the number of new medical malpractice lawsuits in 2009 numbered only 491, down from 1,365 in 2002.

This downward trend in the number of new medical malpractice lawsuits can more than likely be attributed to two distinct actions, one by the state legislature and the other by the state supreme court:

  • In 2002, the state legislature passed Act 13. This measure was designed to both reduce both medical errors and the number of medical malpractice lawsuits filed
  • In 2003, the state supreme court effectively ended forum shopping by declaring that all new medical malpractice lawsuits must be filed in the county where the alleged harm transpired. Plaintiffs were also required to secure a certificate of merit from a licensed physician declaring that medical malpractice had occurred.

Charles Moran, spokesman for the Pennsylvania Medical Society expressed praise for both the newly released figures and previous changes to the law. “The fact is that they have made some good changes and, as the data shows, the number of claims being filed is down. That is a good sign. Something must be working,” said Moran.

Related Resource:

Malpractice Lawsuits Decline in Pennsylvania (The Philadelphia Inquirer)

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