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The Pennsylvania Supreme Court amended the procedural rules governing certificates of merit Monday in an attempt to clear up any confusion litigants might have when bringing multiple claims against the same defendant. The court’s announcement concerning the rules came on the same day it was poised to hear its first case involving the certificate of merit rule in Harrisburg, Pa. Under the amended rules announced Monday, plaintiffs in medical malpractice lawsuits who raise multiple claims against the same defendant must file certificates of merit for each claim or a single certificate of merit that states the claims are raised under “both subdivisions [of Rule of Civil Procedure 1042.3] (a)1 and (a)2.” In a prepared statement, Chief Justice Ralph J. Cappy stressed the court wasn’t altering the rules requiring a certificate of merit. “The intent of today’s order is to clarify, not change, the rules requiring that a claim against a defendant be supported by a statement of a licensed professional,” Cappy said in his statement. Under Rule 1042.3 (a)1, a plaintiff must get a written statement from a licensed professional that the “care, skill or knowledge” of the defendant “fell outside acceptable standards” and that the conduct was a cause in “bringing about the harm” that is the subject of the lawsuit. Rule 1042.3(a)2 requires plaintiffs to file a certificate of merit when the claim against the defendant “is based solely on allegations that other licensed professionals for whom this defendant is responsible deviated from an acceptable professional standard.” In the explanatory comment to the amended rules, Civil Procedural Rules Committee chairman — and Allegheny County, Pa., common pleas court judge — Stanton Wettick said the amendments to rules 1042.3(b) and 1042.8 were meant to “clarify their application in cases in which multiple claims are asserted against the same defendant. “New subdivision (b)(2) has been added to Rule 1042.3 advising the plaintiff who files a complaint raising claims against the same defendant under both subdivisions (a)(1) and (a)(2) that either (i) a separate certificate of merit must be filed as to each claim raised, or (ii) a single certificate of merit must be filed … stating that claims are raised under both subdivisions (a)(1) and (a)(2),” Wettick wrote. “The form of the certificate of merit set forth in Rule 1042.8 also has been amended by inserting the words ‘AND/OR’ between paragraphs (1) and (2) which correspond to subdivisions (a)(1) and (a)(2) of Rule 1042.3.” The amendments came the same day the justices were scheduled to hear arguments about whether the certificate of merit rule should be subject to equitable exceptions. In Womer v. Hilliker, defendant Dr. Jan Hilliker is appealing an unpublished Superior Court decision to open a judgment of non pros entered after the plaintiff failed to comply with the certificate of merit rule. Under Rule 1042.3, plaintiffs are required to file the certificate of merit within 60 days of filing their lawsuits and the state’s intermediate appellate courts have been largely unforgiving of plaintiffs who do not abide by the strict deadline. The high court, in granting allocatur in Womer, limited the appeal to the issue of whether the Superior Court erred in finding that the plaintiff alleged facts sufficient to open the judgment. “In addressing this issue,” the court said in its allocatur order, “the parties shall also address the question of whether Rule 1042.3 should be deemed subject to equitable exceptions.”

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