On August 25, 2022, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court eliminated a venue exception for medical malpractice actions filed in the Commonwealth. The rule requiring that medical professional liability claims be brought in the county in which the care occurred will no longer be in effect as of January 1, 2023. The Court took this action upon the recommendation of the Civil Procedural Rules Committee, which was circulated and published for comment in December 2018.
In 2002, Pennsylvania passed the Medical Care Availability and Reduction of Error Act (“MCARE Act”) in response to the increasing number of medical malpractice filings in the Commonwealth. The MCARE Act resulted in the adoption of Pa.R.C.P. 1006(a.1), which included an exception to Pennsylvania’s venue rule for claims brought against medical professionals. Under Pa.R.C.P. 1006(a.1), a medical professional liability action may be brought against a healthcare provider for a medical professional liability claim only in a county in which the cause of action arose. Generally, this meant that a case must be venued in the county in which the actual care of the patient occurred. The goal of the MCARE Act and its venue rule was to eliminate frivolous medical malpractice cases and create a more stability in the provision of healthcare in Pennsylvania.
The amended rule eliminates the Pa.R.C.P. 1006(a.1) venue exception and allows for a plaintiff to bring a medical malpractice case in any county (1) in which care occurred, (2) where a defendant could be served, or (3) where any transaction or occurrence giving rise to the suit took place. Ultimately, this amended rule opens the door to a plaintiff’s ability to forum shop medical malpractice cases.
Additionally, the amended rule preserves the provisions for transferring venue for the convenience of the parties and witnesses, as well as the requirement to raise improper venue by preliminary objection. As such, healthcare defendants should carefully evaluate all complaints filed on or after January 1, 2023, to determine if venue should be challenged through preliminary objections and/or a motion to dismiss based on forum non conveniens.
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