A $53 Million Verdict Based on No Evidence?

Wayne J. Guglielmo, MA

Disclosures

July 19, 2016

In This Article

What's Causing This State's Drop in Jury Verdicts?

The number of medical malpractice jury verdicts in the Keystone State are at the lowest point since 2000, when the Unified Judicial System of Pennsylvania started tracking and posting such data, as a story in the Pittsburgh Business Times reports.[4]

In Allegheny County, for example, med-mal verdicts dropped from 147 from January 2000 to July 2003, to just 10 in 2015. Defendants won all 10 verdicts in 2015, whereas statewide they prevailed 80% of the time.

What's driving down the number of verdicts and apparently making it harder for plaintiffs?

Your view may depend on what side of the courtroom you're on. Paul Vey, a partner and medical malpractice defense attorney at Pietragallo Gordon Alfano Bosick & Raspanti, cites three reasons:

  • The medical community has improved patient safety, thereby reducing the number of medical errors and the risk for malpractice.

  • Plaintiffs and defendants are choosing alternative dispute resolutions, including arbitration, which also cuts down on the number of cases that end up in court.

  • The state's Medical Care Availability and Reduction of Error Act—which requires that plaintiffs obtain a certificate of merit from an expert before filing a med-mal claim—may be responsible for reducing some frivolous lawsuits.

Plaintiffs' attorney Harry Cohen, however, isn't buying what Vey is selling. Although he agrees that the dip in med-mal verdicts is a real trend, he attributes it to harder-to-convince jurors and, as Vey also cited, the growing use of alternative dispute resolutions. As for better patient safety, Cohen is skeptical: "I don't think hospitals are getting dramatically safer."

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