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New Rule Calls for Labeling of Med Mal Documents A new procedural rule requires that the caption for legal papers filed in a medical malpractice lawsuit include the heading, “Civil Action – Medical Professional Liability Action,” according to an order issued by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court Monday. New Rule 1042.16 of Civil Procedure became effective upon its publication. It is intended to assist the Administrative Office of Pennsylvania Courts in collecting and developing statistical information on Pennsylvania medical professional liability actions, according to a press release from the AOPC. “These changes will enhance the collection and accuracy of data in medical professional liability cases and again underscore the judiciary’s commitment to address an issue of significant importance to the commonwealth’s citizens,” Chief Justice Ralph J. Cappy said in a statement. The AOPC first collected statewide statistics on med mal filings and judgments last year, releasing the summary publicly in March. The figures showed a 28.6 percent drop in medical malpractice case filings in Pennsylvania in 2003. In releasing the information, officials at the AOPC noted difficulties in collecting the statistics because some counties did not have methods for tracking medical malpractice actions through their systems. All counties are now expected to take care to collect more specific data about med mal litigation. Cappy made this request in January at the urging of Gov. Edward G. Rendell, who “sought more information to address malpractice reforms with the General Assembly,” according to a March press release from the AOPC. Under Rule 1042.16, the new designation, “Civil Action – Medical Professional Liability Action,” must be noted on a cover sheet in those counties that require a cover sheet. Rule 1042.16 “provides a mechanism for a more effective and uniform way to collect information that should prove valuable in addressing common sense solutions to the challenges faced by the complexity of medical professional liability,” Cappy said. Last month, the Supreme Court promulgated another new rule, No. 1904 of Judicial Administration, requiring Pennsylvania trial courts to begin docketing medical malpractice actions with a separate code and to send a report on each county’s med mal litigation to the court administrator by Jan. 20 of every year. - Melissa Nann Burke New Safety Initiatives Announced for Judiciary Facilities Plans for security enhancements at state courthouses and district justice offices were announced yesterday by the Administrative Office of Pennsylvania Courts. The judiciary secured $4.4 million from the state Legislature in July for safety initiatives at Pennsylvania’s 550 district justice offices and at the Philadelphia courts. The security enhancements – to be implemented in 2005 – include the installation of shatterproof glass to protect staff and jurists at transaction counters, closed-circuit television monitoring and duress alarms, according to an AOPC press release. The state Judicial Safety Committee, headed by Justice Sandra Schultz Newman, is working on a similar security program for Pennsylvania’s trial courts. Efforts to secure funding for that project will begin next year. “One of the biggest challenges facing state courts today lies in developing a healthy balance of public accessibility while ensuring the safety of people, facilities and information,” Newman said in a statement. “We feel it is important that county officials be directly involved in all aspects of addressing security issues with us. The confidential facility assessments we are forwarding to counties, along with the physical security improvements we are announcing, are the results of 18 months of concerted effort by the Judicial Security Committee and its county-based members.” Last week, the committee sent individual “facility assessment reports” evaluating the long-term court security needs in each county to president judges and county executives, according to the release. The reports are confidential “for obvious reasons,” said AOPC spokesman James Koval. They describe existing court security measures and summarize the findings of analysts who studied the facilities in all counties. The reports “also recognize that most counties already had implemented significant security measures in trial court facilities prior to the completion of the assessment process in February 2004,” according to the release. A description of the report sent to the Philadelphia judicial district was not immediately available. Security preparedness training for state and local court staff members is scheduled to begin in 2005. - Melissa Nann Burke

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