Since 2003, Pennsylvania Rule of Civil Procedure 1006 required plaintiffs in medical malpractice actions to only file a claim in the county in which the cause of action arose, or in instances where multiple healthcare providers are defendants, any county where venue can be tied to one of them. Prior to 2003, venue rules were consistent with non-medical malpractice actions and tort claims against non-governmental defendants: generally, a plaintiff could file in any county in which the cause of action arose, any county where a defendant could be served, or any county where a non-person entity defendant conducts business.
On August 25, 2022, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court announced that it will adopt amendments proposed by the Civil Procedural Rules Committee, the effect of which will greatly expand which counties plaintiffs can file suits in.
The ordered revisions to Civil Procedure rules 1006, 2130, 2156, and 2179 will go into effect on January 1, 2023.
Proponents of maintaining current venue rules feared that returning to the pre-2003 status would increase frivolous filings, reduce filings to a few historically plaintiff-friendly jurisdictions, increase insurance premiums, reduce patient access to quality care, and motivate physicians to leave the Commonwealth.
Those petitioning to revert back to pre-2003 venue rules argued that there had been a significant decrease in medical malpractice filings in the almost two decades since the rule change, that the cases filed since then resulted in lower compensation payments to victims, and that there was a clear advantage to defendants.
In explaining their rational for proposing the change to the Supreme Court, the Rules Committee characterized the current venue requirements as restrictive towards plaintiffs, that resulted in their disparate treatment and ultimately less-than-full compensation for their injuries. The Rules Committee further predicted that maintaining the requirement for certificates of merit would continue to limit frivolous filings. It also proposed that concern for forum shopping should be deemphasized in favor of compensation to victims. Finally, it supported the notion that if reverting to the pre-2003 venue requirements results in negligent providers relocating outside the Commonwealth, then those are preferred outcomes that will hopefully limit future occurrences.
The adopted changes include a provision to re-examine the impact of this rule change as early as January 1, 2025.