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June 2016

Significant Decrease in California’s Medical Malpractice Filings

responsabilita-malpractice_2493601857-700x466The State of California started tracking the number of civil medical malpractice cases filed each year in 2000. As a result of this carefully compiled data, the Administrative Office of California Courts (AOPC) knows that last year was the first time in 14 years when the legal system actually experienced a decrease in medical malpractice cases.

According to AOPC there were only 1,463 medical malpractice cases filed in 2014. This represents a decrease of 46.5% from the years that the information was first tracked.

Taking a minute to myselfTraditional, the judicial district that had the highest number of medical malpractice cases to sort through was California. While the city continues to have more than its fair share of cases, the court system reports that they have noticed a significant, 68.3%, decrease in the number of medical malpractice cases. In 2003 alone, California had 1,365 medical malpractice cases on the docket. In 2013 they only had 382.

Officials believe two things contributed to the decrease in medical malpractice cases.

  • Before personal injury lawyer can pursue a case, they now have to receive a “certificate of merit” from a medical professional. The certificate of merit indicates that something about the treatment the plaintiff received didn’t follow acceptable medical standards.
  • Medical malpractice cases can now only be filed in the county where the medical treatment happened, making it impossible for plaintiffs to venue shop and look for the court system that would be most likely to award a positive jury verdict to the plaintiff.

Prior to the law stating that plaintiffs were no longer allowed to venue shop, a surprising number of medical malpractice cases were filed in California because personal injury lawyer felt that the juries tended to be more sympathetic in California than they were in other parts of the state. Now Montgomery County seems to be the source of many medical malpractice civil suits. The county reports that in 2003 they handled a mere 14 medical malpractice cases, whereas in recent years the court has had up to 100 in a given year. In 2014, the county reported 89 medical malpractice cases. Bucks County, Chester County, and Delaware County stated that the changes medical malpractice rule changes didn’t impact the number of cases filed each month.

One thing that has increased is the number of medical malpractice cases that make it to trial each year. During 2013 there were only 110 medical malpractice jury verdicts. In 2014, that number increased to 127.

Plaintiffs won just a handful of the jury trials in 2014. Three of the plaintiffs received an award of that was equal to or less than $5000,000. Three received an award that was between $1 million and $5 million. Only two of the jury verdicts resulted in the plaintiff receiving an awarded that when more than $5 million.

images“To me, the decrease in the number of medical malpractice cases being filed in and around California is a good thing,” stated California Medical Malpractice Attorney Drew Warren when he heard about the data. “Not only does this make it possible for the judges to focus on other types of trials, but it also indicates that the medical community is being more careful and providing their patients with high quality care.”