Chamber Minute

January 2020

PA Chamber Minute January 2020

Hi, I’m Gene Barr, president of the Pennsylvania Chamber.

Welcome to this month’s Pennsylvania Chamber Minute.

The presence of a fair and predictable legal system in a state can often be a main factor for companies deciding where to locate.  Unfortunately, Pennsylvania’s legal climate leaves much to be desired.  Areas of the Commonwealth that are historically known to hand down pro-plaintiff verdicts can be fraught with costly and frustrating delays in justice that drive businesses – and the jobs they create – to other states.

Nowhere is this more evident than in Philadelphia’s Court of Common Pleas.  This year, the American Tort Reform Association gave the court the dubious distinction of being theworst “judicial hellhole” in the country.  It moved up from the number 6 spot last year, largely due to a high profile judgement against Johnson and Johnson in a pharmaceutical case that cost the company a staggering $8 billion.

But this wasn’t the only huge payout that was awarded.  In fact, the court has such a national reputation for being plaintiff-friendly that 86 percent of new pharmaceutical suits in Philadelphia are brought by out-of-state plaintiffs.  That’s why the Pennsylvania Chamber is renewing our call for lawmakers to enact venue reform which will prevent plaintiffs’ attorneys from filing cases in jurisdictions where there is no tie to the plaintiff or defendant.  We’re partnering with the Pennsylvania Coalition for Civil Justice Reform on this and other legal reforms that will close loopholes currently being abused by trial lawyers. 

Also on this year’s “judicial hellholes” list, ATRA – for the first time ever - put the Pennsylvania Supreme Court on a list of Courts to watch in 2020.  The left-leaning court now stands at a crossroads, as it prepares to consider several important cases that will have a lasting impact on the state’s litigation environment.  In recent years, Pennsylvania’s highest court has issued liability-expanding decisions that welcome out of-state plaintiffs to file cases here, which can open the doors to a case backlog.  The Pennsylvania Chamber will be following these rulings closely as we work to give employers the fairness and certainty they want and deserve. 

Here are the key takeaways from this month’s message:

  • A state’s legal system is a major determining factor in its overall business climate, and Pennsylvania’s leaves much to be desired.
  • The Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas was named the worst “judicial hellhole” in the country this year mainly due to venue shopping by plaintiffs’ attorneys.
  • The Pennsylvania Chamber is pushing for venue reform in 2020 along with other legal reforms that will close loopholes and bring fairness and predictability back to Pennsylvania’s legal climate.

 Thanks for spending a minute of your time with the Pennsylvania Chamber, the Statewide Voice of Business.