Pennsylvania Supreme Court Holds Medical Care Availability And Reduction of Error Act’s 7-Year Statute Of Repose Is Unconstitutional

In its opinion dated October 31, 2019, the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania Western District (“Pennsylvania Supreme Court”) stated: “In this appeal by allowance, we consider whether the seven-year statute of repose in Section 1303.513(a) of the Medical Care Availability and Reduction of Error Act (MCARE Act) comports with Article I, Section 11 of the Pennsylvania Constitution, which guarantees “[a]ll courts shall be open; and every man for an injury done him in his lands, goods, person or reputation shall have remedy by due course of law[.]” PA. CONST. art. I, § 11. Because we conclude the seven-year statute of repose is not substantially related to an important government interest, we reverse the Superior Court’s order affirming the trial court’s grant of judgment on the pleadings and remand for further proceedings.”

The Pennsylvania Supreme Court stated: “The effect of the seven-year repose period for most medical malpractice actions is to limit the “discovery rule” to seven years. In most cases, if a malpractice victim discovers the injury and its cause within seven years, the victim may bring a timely lawsuit; however, after seven years, the statute of repose bars the victim’s action. Additionally, foreign objects cases are exempt from the statute of repose, and minors can file a lawsuit either seven years from the date of injury or until their twentieth birthday, whichever is later. Thus, the statute of repose prevents most medical malpractice victims, except foreign objects plaintiffs and certain minors, from exercising the constitutional right to a remedy after seven years.”

The Pennsylvania Supreme Court continued: “In order for this statutory scheme infringing on the Article I, Section 11 right to a remedy to pass intermediate scrutiny, it must be substantially or closely related to an important government interest. As noted, the goal of the statute of repose was to control medical malpractice premium rates by providing actuarial certainty … the statute of repose infringes on the Article I, Section 11 right to a remedy: the statute permits malpractice victims who discover their injury and its cause within seven years, foreign objects plaintiffs, and minors to exercise their constitutional right to a remedy; on the other hand, the statute deprives malpractice victims who do not discover their injury or its cause within seven years of their right to a remedy. Appellees have not demonstrated that this seven-year period is substantially related to the goal of controlling insurance premiums.”

The Pennsylvania Supreme Court held: “the statute of repose as enacted does not offer insurers a definite period after which there will be no liability because it exempts foreign objects cases and minors, so insurers still have to account for those unpredictable “long-tail” cases in calculating malpractice insurance premiums. Therefore, the seven-year statute of repose, with exceptions for foreign objects cases and minors, is not substantially related to controlling the cost of malpractice insurance rates by providing actuarial predictability to insurers. Accordingly, we conclude the MCARE Act’s statute of repose is unconstitutional, reverse the order of the Superior Court, and remand for further proceedings.”

Source Yanakos v. UPMC, J-83-2018.

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This entry was posted on Saturday, November 2nd, 2019 at 5:24 am. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

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