Judicial Hellholes Report Drives Home Need For Legal Reforms

You don’t have to be a business owner to know that living in a ‘judicial hellhole’ doesn’t sound business friendly. The city of Philadelphia has been given that dubious title yet again by the American Tort Reform Association, which listed the city’s Court off Common Pleas among the top 10 worst legal climates in the country in its most recent “Judicial Hellholes” report.

Some of the reasons for this ranking, as noted by ATRA: the number of mass tort cases flooding the system; an overall lack of legal reform that’s allowed trial lawyers to take advantage of loopholes; a pro-plaintiff slant in the Court; and so much more.

As dismal as the ATRA listing is, it’s not surprising to the PA Chamber or any other group that advocates for lawsuit abuse reforms in Pennsylvania. We tirelessly tell lawmakers that our state’s legal climate – which is well known to be costly and fraught with delays - has long raised red flags for businesses and those looking where to invest and hire; and created challenges for PA-based employers who want and deserve a predictable and balanced system of justice.

In 2011, the PA Chamber was instrumental in enacting Joint and Several Liability reform that has helped prevent plaintiffs’ lawyers from persistently going after “deep pocket” defendants in civil cases regardless of their degree of fault. Unfortunately, there are other inherent problems with Pennsylvania’s legal system that the PA Chamber is working to address.

Chief among our 2019 legal reform priorities will be venue reform which will prevent plaintiffs’ attorneys from filing cases in jurisdictions where there is no tie to the plaintiff or defendant. According to the “Judicial Hellholes” report, Philadelphia is well known to be a “hotbed for asbestos litigation,” ranking fourth nationwide in 2017 with 263 new filings. The PA Chamber is focused next session on reforming the state’s current system of assessing responsibility for damages in asbestos-related suits. Our organization is also proud to be engaged with the Pennsylvania Coalition for Civil Justice Reform in helping to bring employers the predictability and certainty they want and deserve.