Pennsylvania’s legal climate is conducive to frivolous lawsuits and lacks protections that create a fair, balanced and common sense system. The business community supports legal reforms that help prevent lawsuit abuse while protecting the right of legitimate plaintiffs to seek justice.
The American Tort Reform Association’s 2020 “Judicial Hellholes” report reveals a harrowing new truth about Pennsylvania’s judicial system – both the Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas and the Pennsylvania State Supreme Court have been given the No. 1 spot on its annual ranking of the most unbalanced, unpredictable and just plain terrible judicial systems in the nation.
The PA Chamber has long held that an overly litigious and plaintiff-friendly judicial framework – particularly in Philadelphia – have caused the state to miss out on countless dollars in investment, since businesses commonly evaluate litigation climates when deciding where to invest.
Shortly before the report was issued, Gov. Tom Wolf further cemented Pennsylvania’s embarrassing ranking when he vetoed H.B. 1737. The bill – which the PA Chamber took the lead on advocating for and which nonprofits, daycare centers, schools, medical professionals and more joined us in supporting - would have provided organizations that are following state and CDC-issued health guidelines with targeted and temporary safe harbor protections, ensuring that unwarranted lawsuits are one less financial concern as they work to keep their doors open throughout this pandemic.
In the absence of these reforms, trial lawyers will continue to view the pandemic as an opportunity to line their pockets. In fact, a Deep Root analysis of KANTAR ad occurrence data shows that the law firm Morgan & Morgan has spent nearly three-quarters of a million dollars in the Philadelphia media market in an attempt to seek COVID-19 related cases. Additionally, law firms in the region have also been promoting the creation of “vaccine practices” to go after companies that have been working tirelessly to produce the COVID-19 vaccines that are needed to get the world through this dark and trying time.
PA Chamber of Business and Industry President and CEO Gene Barr issued the following statement following the state House’s passage of H.B. 605, legislation which includes temporary safe harbor protections for employers from unwarranted COVID-19 related lawsuits.
For the second year in row, Pennsylvania has been named the home of the nation’s worst “Judicial Hellholes,” according to the newly released annual report by the American Tort Reform Foundation. While the Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas – long known for its plaintiff-friendly rulings - has made regular appearances on the list in the past, this year the Court is tied with the Pennsylvania State Supreme Court to nab the No. 1 spot in the yearly ranking.
Pennsylvania’s job creators have had no shortage of challenges resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic. As the PA Chamber works with our local chamber partners, statewide associations and the business community on our robust “Bringing PA Back” initiative, we’re urging lawmakers to enact policies that will promote reinvestment in the Commonwealth and drive our economic resurgence. Sitting at the top of this important list is securing temporary and targeted liability protections for businesses that are operating during these difficult times.
A fair and equitable system of civil justice is essential to the proper functioning of a free market economy. By permitting legitimate disputes to be resolved in a fair and efficient manner, it allows for a full and timely compensation of parties legitimately injured; gives parties predictability and certainty; and contributes to greater productivity and economic prosperity. An unbalanced litigation environment can cause serious dislocations with significant economic implications such as reduced investment, increased costs, job loss and improper shift of costs to taxpayers.
Despite the enactment of some reform, the Commonwealth has consistently ranked near the bottom of various studies of states’ liability climates. In order to boost the economy and create more private sector jobs, we need to inject fairness, common sense and personal responsibility into our courts by continuing to reform our antiquated legal system.
The current construct of the Commonwealth’s judicial system creates an environment that can lead to inefficient and biased justice. In order to achieve certain structural reforms to the system, changes to the Pennsylvania Constitution should be implemented. These changes include:
In addition to these structural reforms, the PA Chamber supports amending existing law or creating a new law to:
The business community opposes efforts that would: