Pennsylvania’s notorious legal climate has resulted in the Commonwealth jumping to the top spot of the American Tort Reform Foundation’s 2023 Judicial Hellholes® report. The Commonwealth is tied with Georgia for the No. 1 ranking, up one spot from ATRF’s 2022 ranking. ATRF attributes Pennsylvania’s top position on the national list to the escalating number of nuclear verdicts, medical liability lawsuits, litigation tourism, mass torts litigation in Philadelphia and the Supreme Court’s expansion of liability in the Commonwealth.
In a press release, PCCJR Executive Director Curt Schroder said, “While some may quibble with the terminology of the Report or the rankings themselves, no one can seriously dispute that 2023 marked another year of expanded liability for businesses, healthcare providers, insurers, and other defendants in Pennsylvania.”
In 2023 alone, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court issued multiple decisions that actively expanded the liability of small businesses, health care providers and others. The rulings in Bert v Turk, Marion v Bryn Mawr Trust, Brown v City of Oil City and Hangey v Husqvarna held that there is no limit to the amount of punitive damages compared to compensatory damages; created a new cause of action not previously recognized; expanded the scope of premises liability; and further allows for venue shopping of cases respectively.
This expansion is set against the backdrop of a recent trend of nuclear verdicts ($10 million+) and thermonuclear verdicts ($100 million+) in Philadelphia courts. In the past 12 months, Philadelphia courts awarded damages out of proportion to actual harm in at least eight cases:
Case Name Date Verdict Venue Type
Maragos v. Bradley 2/23 $43.5M Philadelphia Med Mal
Hagans v. Hospital of UPenn 4/23 $182M Philadelphia Med Mal
Parks v. Temple U. Hospital 5/23 $25.9M Philadelphia Med Mal
Rosenberg v. Progressive Ins. 6/23 $10.4M Philadelphia Auto
Clemmons v. Lehr 9/23 $26.2M Philadelphia Auto
Tomascik v. Terex Corp. 10/23 $10.0M Philadelphia Construction
Caranci v. Monsanto 10/23 $175M Philadelphia Mass Tort
Amagasu v. Mitsubishi Motors 10/30 $976M Philadelphia Auto
Additionally, the recission of the medical liability venue rule once again allows for forum shopping in medical malpractice cases in the Commonwealth. This has resulted in a sharp increase in cases filed in Philadelphia’s high-verdict jurisdiction. The 501 medical malpractice cases filed in Philadelphia as of the end of November 2023 is almost twice the number filed in 2022.
PCCJR has long warned that the scales of justice in Pennsylvania’s civil justice environment are becoming increasingly tilted and trending in a negative and unfair direction for job creators and the health care community. PCCJR will continue to work for legislative and judicial balance in our laws and civil justice system.