More on Hellholes, of the Judicial Sort

judicial hellholes 2011The yearly Judicial Hellhole report from the American Tort Reform Foundation ranks Philadelphia as the number one judicial hellhole for the second year in a row.

Pennsylvania’s court system is archaic, without protections against frivolous lawsuits like those enacted in other states. In the Keystone State, there are no caps on punitive damages and lawyers can “venue shop” to seek out the most generous courts and file lawsuits there instead of where the incident occurred.

Philadelphia has been especially plaintiff-friendly, with expedited procedures, a reputation for a high plaintiff win rate and generous awards. On top of all these goodies, Philadelphia is home to the Complex Litigation Center, which expedites massive class-actions suits, like those filed against pharmaceutical companies.

All these advantages lead to massive amounts of litigation paid for by businesses and residents. It’s no wonder Philadelphia has twice the litigation per capita as any other county in the state.

Thankfully Pennsylvania is taking small steps forward. In 2003, the MCARE Act put a stop to venue shopping for malpractice suits and saw caseloads in Philadelphia drop 58 percent. This year, Gov. Corbett signed the “Fair Share” act which protects plaintiffs from being held liable for paying more in damages than is proportional to their level of responsibility. And this month a bill to prohibit all venue shopping (HB 1976) was voted out of the House Judiciary Committee.