PA Supreme Court Eliminates Mcare Venue Reform; Significant Increase in Philadelphia Med Mal Cases Expected
On Thursday, August 25, 2022, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court amended the Pennsylvania Rules of Civil Procedure and reversed one of the Commonwealth’s most important reforms against forum shopping, i.e., the requirement that medical professional liability actions against health care providers be brought in the county where the cause of action occurred. The amendments, which go into effect on January 1, 2023, are a return to the venue rules as they existed prior to the passage of Pennsylvania’s tort reform statute, the Medical Care Availability and Reduction of Error (Mcare) Act, 40 P.S. §§ 1303.101, et seq., in 2002.
The amended venue rules significantly broaden the available venue options for an attorney filing a medical professional liability action. In addition to being permitted to file the action in a county where the care at issue occurred, a plaintiff may file the case in any county where any of the individual physician or nurse defendants presently reside or work. With respect to legal entity defendants, such as hospitals and practice groups, a case may be maintained in any county that the defendant “regularly conducts business,” along with any county that contains its “registered office or principal place of business.”
Consider, for example, a hypothetical case involving medical care rendered to a Montgomery County resident in the emergency department of a Montgomery County hospital by an emergency medicine attending and resident, both of whom reside in Montgomery County. Two years later, when the plaintiff initiates suit, the resident is moonlighting at a Philadelphia hospital. Under the newly amended rules, this hypothetical case may be properly venued in Philadelphia County because the resident can be properly served at his current Philadelphia place of employment.
Under these new amendments, many cases will be filed in Philadelphia County by plaintiff attorneys looking to establish Philadelphia venue “after the fact”. Suburban and rural based health systems, hospitals, and practice groups will be subjected to jurisdictional discovery and deposition requests at the onset of cases by plaintiffs hoping to construct an argument that one or more of these entity defendants regularly conducts business in Philadelphia.
These amendments are a return to the old “forum shopping” days when Philadelphia courts were clogged with medical malpractice cases that properly belonged in the outlying counties. While the amendments broaden a plaintiff’s venue options, we fully expect to see a dramatic increase in medical professional liability actions filed in Philadelphia County, and a corresponding decrease in the surrounding counties.
If you have questions about the Court's decision and its impact on providers in Pennsylvania, please reach out to any member of our Professional Liability Department.
Disclaimer: This post does not offer specific legal advice, nor does it create an attorney-client relationship. You should not reach any legal conclusions based on the information contained in this post without first seeking the advice of counsel.