|Pennsylvania Supreme Court Justice David N. Wecht
Pennsylvania’s Great Dissenter
In its recent decision in the case of Yanakos v. UPMC, No. 10 WAP 2018 (Pa. Jan. 31, 2020), a majority of Justices on the Pennsylvania Supreme Court declined to reconsider its original decision in this case from late last year in which the Court struck down the statute of repose under MCARE thereby allowing a wider avenue of recovery for Plaintiffs. The decision struck down a seven year statute of limitations for a certain class of medical malpractice cases.
In his Dissent, Justice Wecht expressed his ardent disagreement with the majority’s refusal to reconsider its decision and wrote that “[t]he filing before us illustrates that the decision in Yanakos was not just incorrect, but was confused as well. Confused about the law. Confused about procedure. Confused about insurance. Confused about the questions presented.”
Justice Wecht noted that not only did the appeal take on a life of its own after it reached the Pennsylvania Supreme Court but “this [Pennsylvania Supreme] breathed new life into it” by expanding the issue before the Court.
This expansion of the issue by the Justices in the majority enabled those Justices to address more expansive issues and issue a decision of a wider scope on matters that, in the words of Justice Wecht’s Dissent, the Plaintiff “had never argued and that the lower courts had never considered.”
Justice Wecht also indicated that he wanted a reconsideration because the decision by the majority “ignored precedent, misinterpreted the remedies clause of the Pennsylvania Constitution, and incorrectly adopted (and then misapplied) the intermediate scrutiny test.”
Justice Wecht noted that that the American Medical Association, the National Federation of Independent Business, the Pennsylvania Medical Society and even the majority caucuses in both the Pennsylvania House and Senate had joined the petition for reconsideration to no avail.
Justice Wecht went on to write, “Reargument is a fail-safe. It gives an appellate court the opportunity to admit that it made a mistake. This court should have taken advantage of that opportunity today.” For these reasons, Justice Wecht dissented from the decision by the majority to preserve their previous decision by denying any reconsideration of the issue.
The majority’s refusal to allow for a reconsideration to be heard means that MCARE’s statute of repose is no longer valid.
You can read Justice Wecht’s compelling Dissenting Opinion on the majority’s decision in Yanakos to refuse to allow for a reconsideration of its previous decision HERE.
The Tort Talk post on the original Opinion previously issued by the Supreme Court in Yanakos, along with Justice Wecht’s Dissenting Opinion to that original decision can be viewed HERE.
Source: “Pa. Justices Refuse to Reconsider Statute of Repose Ruling, Sparking Stinging Dissent From Wecht” by Max Mitchell of the Pennsylvania Law Weekly (Feb. 6, 2020).