City of Brotherly Love Keeps Its Title of Worst ‘Judicial Hellhole’

December 15, 2011

The City of Brotherly Love isn’t so lovely when it comes to the civil justice system, at least according to a national tort reform advocacy group.

The Washington, D.C.-based American Tort Reform Association is out with its annual “judicial hellholes” report. And Philadelphia again tops the list as having the civil justice system that is among the most unfair and out-of-balance in the nation.

#1: Philadelphia

The group says civil courts in Philadelphia, particularly the complex litigation center, top the list of judicial hellholes for the second year in a row.

It says Philadelphia hosts a disproportionate share of Pennsylvania’s lawsuits and that forum shopping for plaintiff-friendly courts within the state is a phenomenon that occurs mostly in Philadelphia.

The report says the biggest concern comes from the Complex Litigation Center (CLC) in Philadelphia where, the report claims, judges have actively sought to attract personal injury lawyers from across the state and the country.

The group noted that plaintiff-friendly law, expedited procedures, a reputation for a high plaintiff-win rate and generous awards contribute to Philadelphia’s status as a venue of choice.

But there is some hope, the group said, pointing to the success in addressing the flow of medical liability cases to Philadelphia and the legislature’s recent limiting of a defendant’s liability to its share of fault.

#2: the Entire State of California

The entire state of California comes in second in the judicial hellhole list. The report says that while Los Angeles historically earned a reputation as the most plaintiff-friendly jurisdiction in the Golden State, lawsuits filed by professional plaintiffs have spread throughout California.

The report claims these individuals have filed thousands of extortionate claims against popular family-owned restaurants, book stores and salons in California, demanding thousands of dollars to settle allegations of technical violations of disabled access standards, and California’s courts have enabled the “extortion,” the report says.

#3: West Virginia

West Virginia came in third. The report says the Mountain State continues to be a haven for weak lawsuits by plaintiffs from other states.

The report observed that West Virginia’s high court reached well-reasoned decisions this year when interpreting its consumer protection law and upholding the limit on subjective pain and suffering damages in lawsuits against healthcare providers. But the report said such rulings, while helpful, do not address core problems in West Virginia’s civil justice system, such as its lack of full appellate review, liability rules that are out of the mainstream, and excessive awards.

The report says there has been progress in 2011. It says nearly 50 positive tort reform laws were enacted in more than 20 states throughout 2011. It mentioned several important tort reform enactments, including comprehensive packages in Wisconsin, Tennessee, Alabama and North Carolina, along with a number of encouragingly fair and balanced court decisions.

The American Tort Reform Association’s complete list can be found at: www.atra.org/newsroom/releases.php?id=8618

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