Forum Shopping? Choose Philadelphia

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America’s birthplace, home of the Liberty Bell, cheesesteaks and Rocky, the City of Brotherly Love is a destination for history, arts, culture…and personal injury cases. Once again, Philadelphia has been named America’s number one judicial hellhole in the annual ranking by the American Tort Reform Foundation for 2019. This is based on Philadelphia’s outrageous verdicts, amount spent on lawsuit advertisements, percent of out of state plaintiffs, and courts loosely applying venue rules.

Some highlights from 2019:

  • A major pharmaceutical company hit with an $8 billion verdict;
  • A blood thinner settlement for $775 million; and,
  • An estimated $45 million spent on lawsuit advertisements

The number of out-of-state plaintiffs who brought asbestos cases increased from 47 percent to 60 percent, allowing Philadelphia to remain in the top five most popular jurisdictions to file lawsuits claiming injuries from exposure to asbestos. Additionally, a whopping 86 percent of new pharmaceutical suits in Philadelphia were brought by out-of-state plaintiffs. Even out-of-country plaintiffs choose Philadelphia – this past year, a group of British plaintiffs filed a lawsuit over a London apartment fire in the Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas.

The loose application of venue rules also make Philadelphia a great choice for plaintiffs looking to venue shop. In May 2019, the Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas allowed a defamation case to remain in Philadelphia even though the plaintiff was from Delaware County and the information subject to the defamation claim was aimed at Delaware County residents.

Given that higher verdicts and settlements are to be expected in Philadelphia County, the defense bar must be aware of the available tools to swap venue. If such efforts are unsuccessful, defendants must be aware of the increased risks of certain venues and the need to take that into account when accessing exposure, developing strategy and, of course, effectively communicating such risks to the client.