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Medical malpractice claims fall to 14 year low in Pennsylvania, a lesson for South Africa

05 June 2015 Norton Rose Fulbright

Unlike in Pennsylvania, our courts do not require a plaintiff to produce a certificate of merit as a prerequisite for instituting medical malpractice claims. The certificate of merit is designed to confirm that the medical procedures in a case fall outside acceptable standards.

When the requirement was introduced in Pennsylvania in 2003, the number of medical malpractice filings went from 2904 in 2002 to 1712 the following year, a 41% drop. Since then, medical malpractice filings have remained reasonable, with 1463 cases filed in 2014. Based on these results in Pennsylvania, perhaps a similar requirement should be implemented in South Africa. Here are some of the pros and cons:

     Pros      Cons
  • Reduction in frivolous claims
  • Reports may be expensive to obtain
  • Reduced legal fees for insurers/practitioners
  • May deter the institution of genuine claims
  • Lower burden on courts
  • Will delay the institution of claims
  • Earlier resolution of claims
 

South Africa is in the midst of a medical malpractice litigation storm. Both the private and primary healthcare sectors are under increasing pressure as a result of mounting claims and we would do well to look at the certificates of merit as a fair way to abate the storm.

 

First published by: Financial Institutions Legal Snapshot

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