This page is about Pennsylvania medical malpractice lawsuits. We discuss the law governing these suits and the settlement amounts and jury payouts victim see.
Pennsylvania is one of the biggest states in the U.S., both in terms of population and geographic size. It is home to two major cities and metro areas. Thousands of medical malpractice cases are filed yearly in Pennsylvania’s civil courts. Pennsylvania has unique statutory laws and common law rules governing medical negligence and malpractice lawsuits. Although Miller & Zois is based in Maryland, we regularly handle cases in Pennsylvania through a close working partnership with local counsel or directly through our Pennsylvania attorneys.
Anyone considering a medical malpractice lawsuit in Pennsylvania must be familiar with the state’s malpractice laws because they can significantly impact the value of your case or whether you have the right to sue. The three laws in Pennsylvania that can have the most significant impact on prospective malpractice plaintiffs are (1) the statute of limitations for medical malpractice claims, (2) the Pennsylvania modified comparative negligence rule, and (3) the certificate of merit requirement.
Pennsylvania Statute of Limitations for Medical Malpractice Cases
All states have a statute of limitations for malpractice and other tort claims, which is essentially a legal time deadline for filing a lawsuit. A potential lawsuit must be filed before the statute of limitations deadline, or the claim will be barred.
For medical malpractice cases in Pennsylvania, the statute of limitations is two years from the date that the malpractice was “discovered” or reasonably should have been discovered. 42 Pa. Cons. Stat. § 5524(2). The malpractice is “discovered” when a reasonable person would have realized that they suffered an injury due to medical negligence.
Example: P underwent heart surgery in 2018, and everything seems okay. Four years later, in 2022, however, P suffers a massive heart attack, and doctors inform him that the surgery in 2018 was not performed correctly and that this error probably caused his recent heart attack. Even though the “injury” to P occurred in 2018, the 2-year statute of limitations did not begin to run until 2022 when he discovered the medical negligence.
There are some exceptions to this rule, most notably for minors. When the injured patient is under 18, the two-year limitation period does not begin to run until the minor reaches the age of 18. 42 Pa. Stat. § 5533.
7-Year Statute of Repose
In addition to the 2-year statute of limitation described above, Pennsylvania also has a 7-year statute of repose that applies to medical malpractice claims. A statute of repose is like a maximum time limit or deadline for all claims, regardless of the date of discovery. Under Pennsylvania’s statute of repose, all lawsuits for medical malpractice must be filed within seven years of the injury, regardless of when it was discovered. There are two notable exceptions to this 7-year repose limit: (1) claims for foreign objects left inside the body; and (2) claims for injury to a minor.
Pennsylvania Follows Comparative Negligence
Pennsylvania applies a modified comparative negligence rule in medical malpractice tort cases. Comparative negligence is a defense that can be used to reduce the damages a plaintiff can recover if the defendant can show that the plaintiff’s own negligent conduct partly contributed to their injury. This requires juries to apportion fault percentages between plaintiffs and defendants, e.g., the plaintiff was 20% at fault, and the defendant was 80% at fault.
Pennsylvania has adopted a modified comparative fault standard under which a plaintiff’s claim is barred if their share of fault exceeds 50%. So if a jury determines that a plaintiff was 51% responsible and the defendant was 49% responsible for an injury, the plaintiff automatically loses the case. As long as the plaintiff’s share of fault is 50% or less, they are entitled to damages, but the amount of damages will be reduced based on the plaintiff’s percentage of fault.
EXAMPLE: A jury finds the plaintiff 25% at fault and the defendant 75% at fault and awards damages of $1,000,000. The damage award will be reduced by 25%, so the plaintiff will only receive $750,000.
Certificate of Merit Required
Pennsylvania law requires all lawsuits asserting medical malpractice claims to be supported by a certificate merit. Pa. R.C.P. No. 1042.3. The certificate of merit must be signed by a “qualified expert” who has reviewed the plaintiff’s case and provided a written opinion indicating that the defendant’s conduct did not meet the accepted medical standard of care.
This means that if you want to file a malpractice case you need to get another doctor to review your case and state in writing that the defendant’s doctors were negligent. The certificate of merit must be submitted within 60 days of the lawsuit being filed, or the case will be automatically dismissed. The purpose of this requirement is to filter out potentially frivolous or excessive malpractice lawsuits.
First Responder Immunity
In Pennsylvania, first responders who render medical aid or treatment have limited immunity from being sued for medical malpractice. Under the Pennsylvania Emergency Medical Services Act (35 Pa. C.S. 81), first responders who are licensed healthcare providers such as EMTs, paramedics, etc. cannot be held liable for medical negligence when rendering aid unless they are found to have acted with reckless indifference or gross negligence. This rule was recently applied by the Superior Court of Pennsylvania in the case of Fry v. Montrose Minute Men, Inc. (50 MDA 2022 (Pa. Super. Ct. Jul. 28, 2023)), where the court dismissed claims of medical negligence against first responders based on an absence of gross negligence.
Litigating Medical Malpractice Cases in Pennsylvania
Pennsylvania is a large state geographically and has various social demographics within its various regions. There are two major cities in Pennsylvania: Philadelphia and Pittsburgh. Both are favorable jurisdictions for plaintiffs in medical malpractice and other personal injury cases. The state capital, Harrisburg, is also a good venue for medical malpractice plaintiffs.
Outside of these three major urban areas, however, most of venues in Pennsylvania are not good for plaintiffs. This is a problem in many cases because Pennsylvania has rules which prevent plaintiffs in malpractice cases from venue shopping and filing their case in places like Philadelphia when the injury or malpractice occurred elsewhere. So you are not seeing medical malpractice lawsuits rising in Philadelphia but dwindling in Montgomery, Delaware, and Bucks counties.
Pennsylvania Medical Malpractice Verdicts & Settlements
Below are recent medical malpractice cases in Pennsylvania and their jury payouts or settlement amount.
- Wolfgang v. Bradford Regional Medical Center (McKean County 2023) $3.25 Million Verdict. The plaintiff alleged that his doctors incorrectly diagnosed and treated an infection in his foot, which eventually necessitated a below-the-knee amputation. The case encountered a significant obstacle when an unexpected testimony contradicted a key aspect of Wolfgang’s claim, but the plaintiff’s legal team managed to unearth a crucial piece of medical documentation to challenge this assertion. Following deliberations, the jury apportioned 99% of the responsibility for the injury to the doctors and 1% to the victim. This was the first malpractice verdict in McKean County in over 20 years.
- Dixon v. Sayeed (Philadelphia County 2023) $1.65 Million Verdict. A woman was suffering from a pulmonary embolism but was instead treating her for chronic obstructive pulmonary disease exacerbation. She subsequently suffered a fatal cardiac arrest stemming from the undiagnosed pulmonary embolism. At trial, the family’s lawyers emphasized the doctor’s refusal to consider alternative diagnoses, arguing he acted the same way at trial underscored his closemindedness that led him to ignore other possible reasons for the woman’s symptoms. Ultimately, the jury returned a $1.65 million verdict against in this survival action and wrongful death malpractice claim.
- Nicholson-Upsey v. Univ. of Penn. (Philadelphia County 2023) $182,700,000 Verdict. A newborn child suffered from HIE that caused his spastic quadriplegic cerebral palsy. To seek justice, her mother hired a Philadelphia birth injury attorney who proceeded to file a lawsuit against Penn Hospital. The lawsuit stated that the hospital’s negligence in delaying a cesarean section—despite being aware of the mother’s chorioamnionitis—resulted in the child’s cerebral palsy and brain injuries. According to the family, if the child had been delivered sooner, cerebral palsy and brain injuries could have been prevented. Penn Hospital, however, argued that they didn’t negligently delay the delivery and that the uterine infection was the cause of the baby’s injuries. However, the jury favored the plaintiff, awarding a staggering $182.7 million in damages: $101 million for lifetime care expenses, $1.7 million.
- Latham v. Heritage Valley Health Systems (Beaver County 2023) $16,000,000 Verdict. A 39-year-old woman was experiencing several health issues during her high-risk pregnancy. In the period leading up to the stillbirth, she reported swelling in her extremities, which led to two hospital visits involving tests. According to the plaintiffs, during her second visit, the tests indicated fetal tachycardia, but the doctor did not order additional bloodwork or urinalysis. An ultrasound four days later found no fetal movement or heartbeat, leading to the delivery of the nonviable fetus via C-section. The plaintiffs hired a Pittsburg medical malpractice lawyer and filed a lawsuit. The suit contended that the stillbirth occurred because Lisa’s doctors failed to diagnose her severe preeclampsia. The defendants, however, disputed this, arguing that the conditions cited by the plaintiffs as causing the stillbirth were not supported by evidence. The breakdown of the award included $10 million for wrongful death, $5 million for pain and suffering, and an over $1 million payout for loss of income.
- MDW v Main Line Hosp. (Montgomery County 2022) $3,000,000 Settlement: A wrongful death of a 7-year-old boy allegedly caused by the emergency room’s negligent failure to diagnose and treat his infection. The case settled for $3 million.
- Musika v Gomez (Montgomery County 2022) $750,000: A malpractice lawsuit over the negligent failure to diagnose cancer by performing a needle biopsy led to a delay in treatment and progression of cancer in a middle-aged male plaintiff. A jury in Philadelphia suburbs awarded $750,000 in damages.
- Rasley v Nemours Foundation (Montgomery County 2022) $750,000: A newborn baby died four days after birth from the negligent failure of the hospital to recognize and treat neonatal sepsis, including his mother’s urinary tract infection during pregnancy. Case settled before trial.
- Deger v Choi (Bucks County 2022) $4,850,000: A 55-year-old male died from an aortic dissection, and the estate brought a wrongful death case against the hospital for negligently discharging him the night before without ordering the proper tests and consults.
- Lee v Marks (Philadelphia County 2022) $1,150,000: A 42-year-old man died from a heart attack after going to the hospital the previous day. Plaintiff alleged the defendants failed to timely perform a cardiac assessment, evaluation and/or screening, and failed to timely and properly treat his cardiac condition.
Contact Us About Pennsylvania Medical Malpractice
If you have a potential medical malpractice case in Pennsylvania, call our attorneys today at 800-553-8082 for a free consultation.