Presented by the Health Care Department and the Appellate Advocacy & Post Trial Practice Group

Medical Malpractice Venue Rule Overturned

By Order dated August 25, 2022, effective January 1, 2023, the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania amended Pennsylvania’s venue rule, Pa.R.Civ.P. 1006, by deleting Rule 1006(a.1), which provided that medical malpractice actions must be filed “only in a county in which the cause of action arose.” Although this Rule change will not take effect until January 1, 2023, it will significantly change where many medical malpractice actions are filed.

The effect of deleting Rule 1006(a.1) is to make medical malpractice actions subject to the same venue standards that apply to all other types of cases, which may be filed where (in relevant part) a defendant may be served, the cause of action arose, or a transaction or occurrence took place out of which the cause of action arose.

Yesterday's Rule change will significantly expand the counties in which medical malpractice actions may be filed, with an expected increase in certain counties, primarily Philadelphia.

This change eliminates a centerpiece of the Supreme Court’s own tort reform effort 20 years ago. By Order dated January 27, 2003, the Court promulgated Rule 1006(a.1) requiring medical malpractice actions to be filed only where the cause of action accrued. The result was a significant decline in medical malpractice filings statewide.

The Order accompanying the Rule change states: “This Order shall be processed in accordance Pa.R.J.A. 103(b), and shall be effective January 1, 2023.” This language likely means that the amendment to Rule 1006 will apply to actions filed on or after January 1, 2023, regardless of when the cause of action accrued. When the Supreme Court promulgated Rule 1006(a.1) in 2003, the effective date applied to filings, and this Rule change likely will apply the same way.

When Rule 1006(a.1) was promulgated in 2003, many plaintiffs rushed to file their medical malpractice actions before the Rule change took effect. We will likely now see the reverse trend: plaintiffs will wait until on or after January 1, 2023, to file new actions in venues that they view as more favorable.

Finally, in addition to Rule 1006(a.1), there is a statute—42 Pa.C.S.A. § 5101.1(b)—that requires medical malpractice actions to be filed where the cause of action arose. However, that statute was declared unconstitutional in North-Central Pennsylvania Trial Lawyers v. Weaver, 827 A.2d 550 (Pa. Cmwlth. 2003), on the basis that venue is a matter for the Supreme Court, not the legislature. Yesterday’s Order suspends any statute that is inconsistent with Rule 1006 as amended, so it is likely that the amended Rule, not the statute, will govern venue in medical malpractice cases beginning on January 1, 2023.


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