Pennsylvania Courts Rated as One of Nation’s Worst Judicial Hellholes as Supreme Court Committee Considers Rule Change to Allow for Financially Lucrative Forum Shopping

HARRISBURG – Pennsylvania has once again been ranked as one of the nation’s worst judicial hellholes.  The Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas and the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania together comprise the fourth worst judicial hellhole according to the American Tort Reform Foundation’s “2021-2022 Judicial Hellholes” report.  The annual list is comprised of the country’s most unjust courts and state civil justice systems that are ripe for lawsuit abuse.

“This report shines a light on what has been a black mark on the Commonwealth for years,” Pennsylvania Coalition for Civil Justice Reform Executive Director Curt Schroder said. “The timing of the report is notable as the Civil Procedural Rules Committee of the Supreme Court is actively considering a return to forum shopping in medical liability cases.  An attempt was made to recommend a new venue rule to the Supreme Court at the last Civil Procedural Rules Committee meeting, with another attempt anticipated at the upcoming meeting in February 2022.  Adoption of the proposed rule will return forum shopping to medical liability cases and allow more cases to be heard before jackpot courts in Philadelphia.”

A PCCJR review of Supreme Court civil cases over the past five years revealed that the court has expanded liability at an alarming pace.  In fact, the ratio of civil cases exposing litigants to expanded liability and higher monetary damages was more than double the decisions upholding important laws, statutes or protections for those victimized by lawsuits. 

“The Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas has notoriously been viewed as a ‘cash-cow’ environment for personal injury attorneys – particularly as it relates to lawsuits focusing on pharmaceutical products and asbestos claims,” Schroder continued. “That combined with the state Supreme Court’s alarming trend of ruling to expand liability, has unfairly marred and tilted the scales of ‘justice’ in the Commonwealth.  We have become the poster child for how to get rich quick by abusing the legal system.” 

The report noted that the Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas remains a “hotbed for mass tort litigation.”  Trial lawyers have used this to their benefit, spending millions of dollars in advertising to drive up the number of claimants and filing product liability claims from around the country in Philadelphia’s Court of Common Pleas Complex Litigation Center.  ATRF reports that there are more than 7,500 pending cases against a single pharmaceutical product, Risperdal, in the Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas Complex Litigation Center alone. As of 2019, 85 percent of pharmaceutical cases in Philadelphia’s Complex Litigation Center were from outside the state.

“Pennsylvania’s legal environment is a red flag to the health care and employer communities and a burden to taxpayers,” Schroder added.  “State lawmakers need to act now to reset the scales of justice and bring much needed reforms to the Commonwealth’s civil justice system.”

This marks the ninth-year jurisdictions in Pennsylvania have been named Judicial Hellholes – the Commonwealth had previously appeared on the “Watch List” for seven years.  The state was also named an “Everlasting Judicial Hellhole” this past summer.

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The Pennsylvania Coalition for Civil Justice Reform is a 501(c )(6), not-for-profit, nonpartisan advocacy organization comprised of a diverse group of organizations and individuals committed to bringing fairness to Pennsylvania’s courts by raising awareness of civil justice issues and advocating for legal reform. Additional information is available at http://www.paforciviljusticereform.org, https://www.facebook.com/paciviljustice/ or https://twitter.com/paciviljustice.

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