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PA Superior Court Decides Medical Malpractice Claims Can Proceed Despite Certificate Of Merit Issue

Posted On Behalf of Schmidt Kramer Injury Lawyers on May 14, 2012 in General

Below is the link to a Pennsylvania Superior Court decision in  Aranda v. Amrick, — A.2d — (Pa. Super. December 3, 2009), where the Superior Court reversed a decision by the Monroe County Court of Common Pleas which had dismissed a medical malpractice claim. The Superior Court decision allows a patient to continue their claim against a doctor.
A judgment of non pros means the patient in a medical malpractice lawsuit is unable to pursue their claim against a doctor. The patient has a procedural duty to file a certificate of merit (“COM”) after filing suit, according to Pennsylvania Rule of Civil Procedure 1042.3. A certificate of merit states that the attorney for the patient has had the case reviewed by a medical professional and that there is a possibility the treatment the patient received was below the standard of care, and that the treatment increased the risk of harm to the patient. Here, the patient did not file a COM within the time allowed, and the doctor filed for judgment non pros. Realizing their mistake, the patient filed a motion to open or strike the non pros judgment, but the trial court denied the motion. This Court reviewed the decision for an abuse of discretion, and stated, judgment for non pros can be opened when a petition is timely filed, there is a reasonable explanation or legitimate excuse for the inactivity or delay, and there is a meritorious cause of action. The Superior Court referred back to a case in which the patient’s attorney had retained an expert, completed a COM, and thought his support staff had filed it – when in reality it was never filed. That 2008 case was allowed to continue.  Sabo v. Worrall, 959 A.2d 347 (Pa. Super. 2008).

In Aranda, the attorney, again had the COM within the sixty day period as required, and filed fourteen out of fifteen certificates of merit. The Superior Court found this very similar to the facts in Sabo. Since the facts alleged in the Complaint were a prima facia showing of negligence, and because the COM had been obtained and simply not filed, this case was found to be meritorious. The Superior Court allowed judgment non pros to be opened and the case to continue. A Harrisburg injury attorney at SCHMIDT KRAMER can discuss your medical malpractice case to determine if you have a claim, whether the injury occurred in central Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, or Pittsburgh. http://www.pacourts.us/OpPosting/Superior/out/A24038_09.pdf Submitted by Joe Chapman, Esquire, SCHMIDT KRAMER PC.