by Holly Herman
Excerpted from Reading Eagle article
Rulings by the state Supreme Court in 2003 have reduced the number of medical malpractice lawsuits filed in Berks County Court by 33 percent, according to President Judge Jeffrey L. Schmehl.
The number of malpractice cases in Berks dropped from 30 in 2002, the year before the law changed, to 24 in 2008.
In 2003, the Supreme Court began requiring that cases be heard in the counties where plaintiffs say the malpractice occurred.
The court also required that all cases be certified by a medical professional, who establishes whether the treatment was outside acceptable standards.
John R. Badal, a Reading lawyer who represents medical malpractice plaintiffs, said he does not support a cap on awards in the cases.
“A cap would eliminate malpractice lawsuits,” he said. “The most seriously injured patients would not be compensated. The clients we represent are seriously injured.”
Court officials said malpractice suits initially dropped by more than half because attorneys were reluctant to pay for the experts just to get a suit ready to file. Most people had been filing in Philadelphia, where awards tended to be bigger, but lawyers could no longer do that unless the medical care in question had been delivered there.
After three years, cases began to rise again, but not to the level they had been before the 2003 rulings.
Badal said experts usually are paid $40,000 to $70,000.
“The good lawyers were getting the experts before the new law,” he said. “We are fully in favor of the new law, and we have always been very careful which lawsuit we file.”
Badal said verdicts are higher because the cases that do get filed are legitimate and serious.