Pennsylvania Courts Ranked Second on National Judicial Hellholes List

Report cites negative impact of the Supreme Court’s recent medical liability venue rule change 

Pennsylvania’s notoriously litigious civil justice climate continues to rank as one of the nation’s worst judicial hellholes. This year, the Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas and the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania together rose to the second worst judicial hellhole in the country according to the American Tort Reform Foundation’s “2022-23 Judicial Hellholes” report. The annual report highlights the country’s most unjust courts and state civil justice systems.

Notably, the report points to the Supreme Court’s decision to reverse the state’s medical liability venue rule as “perhaps the most disappointing decision in 2022.” As PCCJR has previously noted, the original venue rule was put into place nearly 20 years ago to address a health care crisis in the Commonwealth. Prior to this rule, plaintiffs’ attorneys regularly funneled medical liability lawsuits to high verdict jurisdictions, such as Philadelphia, in search of large payouts. This led to skyrocketing liability premiums for healthcare professionals causing physicians to drop high risk but necessary procedures, maternity wards to close, and patient access to health care to be limited.

Despite the success of the rule in helping to right-size Pennsylvania’s medical liability environment, the plaintiffs’ bar waged an on-going campaign to rescinded the rule which culminated in the rule change announced in August. The ATR report referenced two other independent studies that found the rule reversal would likely have a negative impact on the state’s health care system as the decision paves the way for plaintiffs’ attorneys to steer cases to high verdict courts. 

Furthering this point, the report includes portions of an April 2022 blog post by a personal injury law firm located in southeast Pennsylvania, that demonstrates the outrageous steps some plaintiffs’ attorneys will take to secure venue in Philadelphia. Doctors might want to avoid driving in Philadelphia as they might be served with a civil suit while sitting in a traffic jam! This is worth a read!

As in previous years, the Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas was singled out for the sheer amount of nuclear verdicts handed down in that jurisdiction. A recent study by the U.S. Chamber’s Institute for Legal Reform found that over a nine year period, more than half of the state’s nuclear verdicts (defined as $10 million or more) resulted from the Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas.  

A breakdown of the factors that went into Pennsylvania’s number two ranking on the list can be found here

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