Malpractice filings in Philadelphia, an epicenter in the national malpractice crisis, have dropped by nearly two-thirds since introduction of new legal rules on where such suits can be filed, according to a study by the Philadelphia Inquirer.
Plaintiffs' attorneys from around the state are said to have favored Philadelphia courts for malpractice filings because juries in the city of brotherly love are thought to be more sympathetic to plaintiffs.
But in January, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court issued new rules requiring that malpractice lawsuits be filed in the county where the alleged negligence occurred.
In addition to the new venue requirement, the court also began requiring that physicians must sign off on the merits of every malpractice claim.
In a survey, released on Sunday, the Inquirer found that from January through July, 326 malpractice suits were initiated in the Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas, compared with 913 such suits in that same period last year.
The newspaper adds that the 326 suits filed so far this year are the fewest filed in Philadelphia for that period of time since 1990.
Also, the Inquirer reports that nearly 300 existing malpractice cases have been transferred out of Philadelphia so far because of the new venue requirement.
Chuck Moran, spokesperson for the Pennsylvania Medical Society, applauds the reduction in litigation in Philadelphia. The new venue requirement is "not the magic bullet but at least it takes care of one aspect of the problem," Moran says.
"Philadelphia juries tend to award twice as much as the rest of the state," he adds. "But the question is, are they still filing somewhere else?"
Meanwhile, Moran says, the state still needs to pass a cap on noneconomic damages, but it would require changing the state constitution.
The Pennsylvania House has approved starting the amendment process, in which the public is asked to vote, but the Senate is still considering the proposal, he says.