Philadelphia is known for many things. Our sports teams, foods, drinks, and landmarks are household terms from coast to coast. However, the Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas has a reputation of its own, and that reputation has earned it a place on a list as simultaneously adored and hated as the phrase “Fly Eagles Fly.”
This year marked the return of Philadelphia to the American Tort Reform Association’s list of “Judicial Hellholes.” The ATRA maintains a list of cities it deems to be biased toward plaintiffs and after six years of being off the list, Philly has returned and taken the number five spot.
Much of this is due to the influx of pharmaceutical mass tort cases involving products like Risperdal, Xarelto, and pelvic mesh implants. The first quarter of 2017 saw over 3,000 new cases filed in the Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas over Risperdal alone, taking the total number of cases involving the antipsychotic medication to well over 5,500.
The reason for the filings is a rule that governs where and how plaintiffs are allowed to file lawsuits when they’ve been injured by a pharmaceutical company. Essentially, non-residents of the city can sue in the Philadelphia County Court of Common Pleas if they’re suing a corporation that is either incorporated in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania or has a business presence here. And, given Philadelphia’s (as well as Pennsylvania’s) role in the national healthcare industry, this covers a large number of the top pharmaceutical corporations currently doing business.
Putting it a bit more simply: if you live in Iowa and were injured by a corporation headquartered in Pennsylvania, you maybe able to file as a plaintiff in Philadelphia.
Many do exactly that, and that’s largely due to a perception that the Philadelphia court is more likely to rule in favor of a pharmaceutical plaintiff rather than the corporation in question. And, in what can only be described as a brief fit of irony, a $28 million verdict was handed down in a bellwether Xarelto case on the same day that the ATRA list was released. After almost a month of proceedings, a jury agreed with plaintiff and Indiana resident Lynn Hartman that the warnings supplied by Bayer and Janssen Pharmaceuticals did not go far enough in describing the risks of internal bleeding associated with the drug.