The American Tort Reform Foundation’s Judicial “Hellholes program” surveys the civil courts and identifies areas where “judges in civil cases systematically apply laws and court procedures in an unfair and unbalanced manner.” Recently. Philadelphia ranked #5 in the country on the top hell hole list.
The reason for this dishonorable ranking is largely due to three large product liability actions, including Risperdal, Xarelto, and the Pelvic Mesh case, as well as an increase in asbestos litigation. The pending Risperdal suits (an antipsychotic drug which allegedly caused gynecomastia) tripled from the start of 2017 through November after four juries returned verdicts over $70 million. However, the ATFR noted that some cases resulted in summary judgment; two judges threw out Risperdal lawsuits mid-trial, and one judge found that punitive damages are not available for Risperdal suits. It seems Philly juries are the cause for concern and not the bench.
The Pelvic Mesh cases demonstrate that plaintiffs seek out Philadelphia as a venue, even if they are not from Pennsylvania, due to the large verdicts. In fact, ATFR determined that only 19% of the plaintiffs were actually from Philadelphia. In April 2017, Johnson and Johnson was hit with a $20 million verdict by an out-of-state plaintiff and another recent verdict was for $57.1 million.
The good news is that the judiciary appears to have taken a more active role in denying interlopers from seeking out Pennsylvania as a plaintiff friendly venue; the bad news (for civil defendants) is that juries continue to render outrageous awards.
Thanks to Ellis Palividas for his contribution to this post and please write to Mike Bono with any questions.