September 25, 2012
"Philly Regrets Flood of Cases"
The Wall Street Journal reports that mass tort filings in the Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas have "skyrocketed from 550 in 2008 to nearly 2,700 last year. The surge left an already busy court system buried in lawsuits and scrambling to repair the damage." The article reports:
Also contributing to the surge of cases: the success of the Complex Litigation Center, a specialized Philadelphia court established in 1992 largely to handle the growing asbestos and pharmaceutical docket. The center adopted techniques that were designed to move cases through quickly, such as setting early trial dates, holding frequent meetings among the lawyers, and consolidating similar cases.
The Complex Litigation Center drew more mass-tort cases to Philadelphia. But until recently, it was largely able to manage its docket. Since 2008, the backlog of asbestos and pharmaceutical cases has shot up from about 2,600 to more than 6,100 through last month. Last year, 88% of the pharmaceutical cases were filed by out-of-state plaintiffs, according to the court.
The mess is now largely Judge Herron's to deal with. Since taking over as the administrative judge late last year, he has put into place several measures designed to reverse the trend—and to send a message to out-of-state lawyers to take their lawsuits to other courts. "Go elsewhere," he says, when asked to describe the message he is hoping to send to out-of-state lawyers. "There are a lot of really wonderful courts in the U.S., and you should make broader use of them."
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The article is rubbish, starting with an epic math fail: more than two-thirds of the cases in Philly's mass torts program are Yaz and Reglan cases, and that has zilch to do with any invitation by the court to out-of-state lawyers. It has to do with two Pennsylvania companies, Bayer and Wyeth, hurting thousands of people. Similarly, the rise in asbestos claims has to do with pure epidemiology, as mesothelioma diagnoses have been on the rise and will continue to be on the rise for the next year or so.
More at my blog, linked via my name here. This was shoddy journalism, pure and simple: a reporter read a Chamber of Commerce press release, made three quick phone calls (judge, defense lawyer, plaintiff's lawyer), and thought that was an adequate substitute for actual research.
Posted by: Max Kennerly | Sep 25, 2012 6:57:30 AM