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Medical malpractice lawsuits down statewide

The number of medical malpractice case filings statewide has leveled off after six years of declining, Chief Justice Ronald D. Castille announced on Monday.

The Administrative Office of Pennsylvania Courts has been tracking case filings to compare with its base years of 2000-02, according to a news release.

The base years’ data was before the U.S. Supreme Court made two changes to malpractice cases, according to the office. First, attorneys must get a certificate noting the medical procedure in a case was outside of professional standards. Second, medical malpractice actions could take place only in counties where the issue arose.

Though in 2011 there was a slight increase in the total number of lawsuits filed, the year shows a 44 percent decline compared with the base years’ numbers, according to the report.

In the midstate, Dauphin and York counties had a 35 percent and 67 percent decrease, respectively, in cases filed compared with the base years. However, Cumberland County had a 22 percent increase, Lancaster County showed a 240 percent increase and Lebanon County had a 27 percent increase over the base years’ data.

The state said the number of jury verdicts in 2011 was the fewest compared with earlier years. More than 70 percent of last year’s jury verdicts were for the defense. The number of nonjury verdicts was seven, in the single digits for the sixth year, the state reported.

“Although the numbers are likely to show slight changes in the years ahead, the pattern suggests a solid footing for the systematic tracking and rule changes initiated and instituted a decade ago by the Supreme Court to address concern over medical malpractice litigation,” Castille said in a statement.

Holly White

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