The state Supreme Court usually has nothing good to say and often finds itself on the defensive for judicial perks and travel or, as earlier this week, seeking a 25 percent increase in its budget while the rest of government slashes costs AND while its personnel costs are rising.
But yesterday the court issued annual stats on medical malpractice filings, and the news is good.
Chief Justice Ron Castille said 1,491 filings statewide in 2010 is a decline of 45.4 percent since the "base years," a.k.a. the time of trial lawyers gone wild, back in 2000-2002 before the court and the legislature stepped in to stop the madness.
(Castille's first statement, released electronically at 11:51 a.m. yesterday said the decline was 38.5 percent. But a second statment at 2:38 p.m. put the decline at 45.4 percent. I figure if we wait a few more hours the decline will be 80 or 90 percent.)
But seriously, folks, this good. Philly for years was a one-stop shopping center for ambulance-chasers. In 2003, there were 2,904 med-mal cases filed in Pennsylvania, nearly half, 47 percent in one county, and I don't have to tell you which county.
(In case I do, it was Philadelphia.)
Last year, only 25 percent of the state's med-mal filings where here. Still disproportionate given we have 67 counties. But, hey, counties such as Pike, Sullivan, Clearfield and Clinton saw zero cases. Plus, we got all the lawyers and doctors.
Med-mal cases and insurance drive up health costs, push docs to other states, keep docs from staying, etc. Many are unfounded, even frivolous. Court stats say 80 percent of jury verdicts go to the defense.
But through court rules and legislation, lawyers bringing actions now must have a "certificate of merit" from the medical profession basically saying, yeah, there's a case. AND to avoid everybody running to Philly in search of liberal judges, lawyers now can only file in the county where the alleged butchery took place.
You can read all kinds of med-mal stats on the court's webside, PACourts.us or, more directly, on this link.
Normally, I rail against our state courts as overstaffed, overpaid, over-perked, arrogant, non-transparent, you know, just like the rest of government. But, all Grrrs aside, this is something this court and the legislature got right.