No one should be surprised that Philadelphia’s Court of Common Pleas is now the country’s worst place to be sued. In a report issued just this week by the American Tort Reform Foundation (ATRF), Philadelphia earned the dubious distinction of being the No. 1 Judicial Hellhole in America!
It’s hell to be sued in Philadelphia. The recent nuclear verdict against Johnson & Johnson served as an exclamation point on a court system run amok. Anyone not getting rich off $8 billion verdicts should be very worried about the injustices of the city’s civil courts.
Philadelphia’s Court of Common Pleas has a history of outrageous verdicts, which feed the litigation industry. This allows “Billboard Lawyers” to pump huge amounts of money into advertising to attract out-of-state litigants who have no business bringing their case in Philadelphia. These “litigation tourists” exhaust resources and delay justice for city residents who rightfully seek redress in their courts.
Out-of-staters have always flocked to the Philadelphia courts for their lawsuits due to their reputation and jackpot mentality. The recent $8 billion punitive damage award will not only make litigation tourism even more attractive to plaintiffs’ lawyers from Pittsburgh to Erie, but could also end up costing every Pennsylvania household jobs and income.
The facts back this up. The U.S. Chamber Institute for Legal Reform (ILR) did a study on the impact of lawsuit abuse state by state. The findings are stunning. The ILR study reveals that the total cost of the “tort” or personal injury side of the court systems in the U.S. is $429 billion, representing 2.3 percent of the gross national product. Pennsylvania’s tort system equates to $18.374 billion or 2.5 percent of the state’s gross domestic product. A full 44 percent of the cost of the state’s tort system is attributable to lawyers’ fees and other expenses, leaving injured people to recover only the remaining 56 percent.
What does this mean for the average Pennsylvanian? The cost of the state’s tort system amounts to $3,721 per household in Pennsylvania!
What does this mean for the average Pennsylvanian? The cost of the state’s tort system amounts to $3,721 per household in Pennsylvania! That places Pennsylvania just out of the top 10 for the highest tort costs per household in the nation. The inefficient system of civil justice is essentially the equivalent of an extra “tort tax” paid by every household in the state. While a handful of attorneys become enormously wealthy by suing health-care innovators and employers, the impact is born by all of us through increased prices and the resulting drag on our economy.
To make matters worse, a committee of the Pennsylvania Supreme Court is considering a rule that would allow more doctors and other health-care providers to be sued in Philadelphia. Seventeen years ago, “venue shopping” was a prevalent problem and lawyers would go to great lengths to justify bringing a case in Philadelphia. The legislature eliminated the problem in the early 2000s, but now plaintiffs’ lawyers are trying to bring venue shopping back.
Should the Supreme Court adopt this proposed rule change, doctors from across the state will be dragged into the hostile Philadelphia court system, verdicts will rise, liability premiums will rise, and medical services will be curtailed. This rule will put attorney profits ahead of patients, contingency fees ahead of health care access, and Philadelphia courts ahead of local jurisdictions and venues.
Those who care about a predictable and fair civil justice system shudder to think of Philadelphia’s judicial hellhole designation becoming a statewide distinction of dishonor.
We will again no doubt hear the usual apologists rush to the defense of a court system that allows plaintiffs lawyers to pillage under the guise of “justice.” I call on attorneys, judges and citizens to recognize the valuable public service ATRF has provided in documenting the deficiencies of the Philadelphia courts and work toward a system of civil justice that treats ALL parties with fairness.
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