Pennsylvania Venue Law Has Changed for Malpractice Cases
In the past, Pennsylvania law not only set out strict restrictions on when and how you were allowed to file suit against a negligent doctor, but it also restricted where you could bring this type of claim. These “venue laws” were put in place in 2002 as part of a wide-reaching effort by state legislators to reduce the number of malpractice claims filed by state residents in specific areas of Pennsylvania.
As of January 1, 2023, Pennsylvania venue law has changed for malpractice cases thanks to a ruling made in August of 2022 by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court. Here are the basics of how Pennsylvania law previously governed this aspect of medical malpractice lawsuits and what implications the state Supreme Court’s ruling will have on these cases in the future.
How Did Pennsylvania Law Work Before?
In 2002, the Pennsylvania state legislature passed the Medical Care Availability and Reduction of Error (MCARE) Act, one of the most significant changes in the Pennsylvania court system’s approach to medical malpractice lawsuits in history. The Act’s primary purpose was to protect patients from getting hurt due to doctor negligence while making malpractice claims less hostile to healthcare providers—or rather, to the insurance companies refusing to insure Pennsylvania doctors and hospitals due to the number of malpractice claims being filed.
One significant change to Pennsylvania medical malpractice law under the MCARE Act requires plaintiffs to file suit over medical malpractice in the county where they received the majority of their negligent medical treatment. Before the law was changed, the rules governing where someone could file a malpractice claim were much less strict. This meant many people were filing their lawsuits in urban areas—Philadelphia County and Allegheny County in particular—so they could get more money out of their claim, even if the actual malpractice mainly occurred elsewhere.
New Changes to “Venue Laws” in 2023
On August 25, 2022, Pennsylvania Supreme Court ruled that the “venue laws” described above should be changed back, resembling what they looked like before the MCARE Act was passed. Starting on January 1, 2023, people hurt by doctors in Pennsylvania are allowed to file malpractice claims not just in the area where they received the majority of their negligent care but also in any place where a financial transaction or contributing action related to the mistreatment took place. Alternatively, they could file a claim anywhere that someone they were suing could be served documents by the court pertaining to the lawsuit. This makes the venue rules for medical malpractice cases the same as any other type of civil case.
While medical service providers and their insurance companies may not like this change, it will significantly expand the rights of people harmed by medical malpractice to demand fair financial compensation for every injury and loss they suffered. If you believe you suffered mistreatment from a healthcare provider, a seasoned medical malpractice lawyer can help you make the most of your legal options. Call Ostroff Godshall Injury and Accident Lawyers today to discuss the changes to Pennsylvania venue law and learn your rights.