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Medical Malpractice Lawsuit Crises?

Recent statistics from the Administrative Office of Pennsylvania Courts suggests that there is no malpractice lawsuit crisis. The AOPC reports that medical malpractice jury verdicts across the state have hit their lowest point since that office began reporting the figures in 2000. Last year 101 medical malpractice cases were tried to a jury verdict in Pennsylvania. This is a drop of more than 20% from 2014. It is nearly a 70% drop from the period of 2000 through 2003.

Of these 101 cases, 79 resulted in a defense verdict. Three verdicts resulted in awards less than $50,000 and two resulted in awards between $500,000 and $1 million. Twelve verdicts were in the $1 million to $5 million range. Three were in the $5 million to $10 million range and two resulted in awards greater than $10 million. Four medical malpractice verdicts were returned in 2015 in cases heard by a judge without a jury. Each of these cases resulted in a defense verdict.

The decrease in jury trials seems to be due in large part to the rising cost of litigation and the increased use of mediation and binding arbitration. The Medical Care Availability and Reduction of Error Act has caused an increase in litigation costs. This law requires plaintiffs to obtain a certificate of merit from an expert prior to filing suit. The doctor must review the case and state in writing that a malpractice lawsuit has merit. This process can cost thousands of dollars. The certificate of merit requirement naturally weeds out the weaker cases. Therefore the cases that now run through the system tend to be better cases than those from 10 years ago.

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