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Constitutional Rights and the Public’s Health

Christopher G. Yanakos, et. al. v. UPMC, et. al.


Christopher G. Yanakos, et. al. v. UPMC, et. al.(Supreme Court of Pennsylvania, Oct. 31, 2019): Pennsylvania’s Supreme Court found that the state’s statute of repose for medical malpractice claims, which established a deadline by which a lawsuit must be brought, was unconstitutional. Plaintiffs sued the University of Pittsburg Medical Center (UPMC) and 2 physicians for faulty medical care associated with a liver transplant more than 12 years after the transplant. UPMC asserted the claim was barred by the state’s Medical Care Availability and Reduction of Error Act. This statute limits the right to a civil action to 7 years following the alleged malpractice, with exceptions for foreign objects left inside the patient’s body and lawsuits brought on behalf of minors. The act was intended to help control malpractice costs. The court found that the 7 year time limit violated the “Open Courts” provision in Pennsylvania’s constitution, guaranteeing that “[a]ll courts shall be open; and every man for any injury done him in his lands, goods, person or reputation shall have remedy by due course of law . . . .” PA. CONST. art. I, § 11. The 7 year limit unconstitutionally infringed on the guarantee of court access as an arbitrary restriction not substantially related to the state’s goal of restricting malpractice costs. Read the decision here.

View all cases in the Judicial Trends in Public Health – December 13, 2019.

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