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Matis Baum O’Connor Joins Fight to Have PA Supreme Court Reconsider Its Striking Down of Med Mal Suit Time Limits

15 November 2019

Yanakos amicus brief

Pittsburgh, PA, United States — The Pennsylvania Orthopaedic Society, the Pennsylvania Chapter of the American College of Physicians, the Pennsylvania Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics, and the Pennsylvania Defense Institute have retained Matis Baum O’Connor shareholder Michael K. Feeney, Esq., to represent them as Amici Curiae in an effort to have the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania reconsider a recent holding that invalidated Pennsylvania’s seven-year statute of repose.

Although medical malpractice suits in Pennsylvania generally must be filed within two years, there are limited exceptions where a patient has no ability to learn about the alleged malpractice until many years later. Even in those situations, however, Pennsylvania’s Medical Care Availability and Reduction of Error Act (“MCARE Act”) establishes a seven-year limitation on claims, referred to as a statute of repose, with exceptions only for foreign objects and minors cases.

On October 31, 2019, the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania struck down the MCARE Act’s statute of repose as being unconstitutional. A key point in the court’s holding was that the seven-year limitation was supposedly “arbitrary” and without reason. In other words, the court felt that there was nothing in the law’s legislative history to explain why the limitation was set at seven years, as opposed to five, three, or even ten.

PAOS, PA-ACP, PA-AAP, and PDI retained Attorney Feeney to represent them as Amici Curiae in the case in an effort to have the court reconsider its decision. The Amicus Brief, which was filed yesterday, was the subject of a Law360 article today. The article may be viewed HERE.

The primary point of the organizations’ argument is that the court overlooked a significant justification for the statute of repose being seven years: the law was obviously correlated with Pennsylvania’s longstanding requirement that medical records be retained for seven years. The law was not arbitrary. As the Amicus Brief states, “In setting the statute of repose at seven years, the General Assembly struck a reasoned and precisely structured balance between the ability of health care providers to have access to critical evidence when defending lawsuits, on one hand, with the ability of medical malpractice claimants to seek redress, on the other.”

Attorney Feeney, a shareholder at Matis Baum O’Connor, dedicates his practice exclusively to the defense of health care providers and is an experienced amicus practitioner.

About PAOS: The Pennsylvania Orthopaedic Society is a non-profit organization, founded in 1956, that represents over 1,200 orthopaedic surgeons, residents, and fellows practicing throughout the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. The organization’s Mission is “to enhance our members’ ability to provide the highest quality musculoskeletal care.” Its Vision is to “be the primary organization that promotes quality musculoskeletal health for the citizens of Pennsylvania.”

About PA-ACP: The Pennsylvania Chapter of the American College of Physicians, is the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania’s largest medical specialty organization and is affiliated with the American College of Physicians. Founded in 1915, the ACP has 159,000 members worldwide. The PA-ACP membership includes 7,800 Pennsylvania internal medicine students and physicians practicing general internal medicine and related subspecialties. The organization’s Mission is to “enhance the quality and effectiveness of health care by fostering excellence and professionalism in the practice of medicine.” Its Vision is to “be the recognized leader in quality patient care, advocacy, education and enhancing career satisfaction for internal medicine and its subspecialties.”

About PA-AAP: The Pennsylvania Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics, is a not-for-profit organization affiliated with the American Academy of Pediatrics. Founded in 1930, the AAP is comprised of over 67,000 pediatricians. The PA-AAP has more than 2,300 member pediatricians and pediatric specialists practicing here in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. The organization’s Mission is “to attain optimal physical, mental, and social health and well-being for all infants, children, adolescents and young adults.”

About PDI: The Pennsylvania Defense Institute, is one of the largest organizations of its kind in the United States. Organized in 1969, its membership is comprised of approximately 400 defense attorneys, full-time supervising or managerial employees of insurance companies, self-insurers, independent adjusters, and others who devote a substantial portion of their time to the defense of damage suits or to claims administration within the Commonwealth. The organization fosters relationships among its members, educates its membership on developments in the law, provides strong representation and advocacy on issues of common interest, encourages improvements in the administration of justice, and works to eliminate court congestion and delays in civil litigation.