Monday, February 20, 2012
The Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas has issued a new general court regulation (No. 2012-01) changing the protocol for mass torts cases. Notable features include:
- No reverse bifurcation of any mass tort case, including asbestos, unless agreed upon by all counsel involved.
- No consolidation of mass tort cases absent an agreement of all parties, except in the asbestos program.
- Deferrral of all punitive damage claims.
For researchers, the order provides interesting information about the mass torts, specifically asbestos, docket in the Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas:
The asbestos case inventory as of February 3, 2012 numbers 770 cases. Since 2006 when the asbestos inventory numbered 589 cases, there has been a pronounced upward trend in filings in each successive year. Although the disposition rate remained at an average of 244 cases per year over this six year period, the Court’s disposition rate has not kept pace with filings and a significant backlog has developed and will continue to develop if measures are not implemented to ameliorate the trend.
In January and again in March, 2009, certain Court leadership invited the filing of asbestos cases from other jurisdictions and did so apparently unaware that, at that time, this Court’s asbestos program was only meeting the ABA’s suggested standards for resolving these cases in 24-25 months in 42% of the cases filed. During a five year period from 2007 through 2011, 82.2% of the cases were disposed of within 31-36 months, leaving almost an entire fifth of the inventory undisposed after three years.
From 2001 to 2008, an average of approximately one-third of the filings were from outside the Commonwealth. A dramatic increase in these filings occurred after this Court’s leadership invited claims from other jurisdictions. In 2009, when published comments were offered encouraging the filing of claims in Philadelphia, out-of-state filings soared to 41% and in 2011 reached an astonishing 47%.
Preliminary Conclusion: With regard to other Mass Tort Programs, the Court failed to meet ABA suggested standards for the disposition of cases in the HRT, Paxil, Beryllium, Phen-Fen and Vioxx matters, but achieved 100% compliance with the Avandia, Trasylol, Digitek, Firefighters’ Hearing Loss, Gadolinium and Anti-Convulsant Drugs programs. The Asbestos Program was by far the one Mass Tort Program most out of compliance with the standards. Significant results were achieved in HRT, Paxil and pharmaceutical mass torts.
You can download the new regulation here: Download Philadelphia Mass Torts New Protocol
Thanks to Mark Behrens (SHB) for the news.