Study: Philly courts courting plaintiffs from outside city

Jon Campisi Oct. 27, 2011, 10:30am


PHILADELPHIA (Legal Newsline) - A newly released academic study by a law school professor asserts that Philadelphia's civil court system is attractive to plaintiff's from outside of the city at the expense of local consumers and businesses.

The empirical study by Joshua D. Wright, a law and economics professor at George Mason University School of Law in Virginia, seeks to show what he calls "systemic biases" in Philly's civil courts, which attract plaintiffs with little or no connection to the city.

This leads to "disproportionate litigation and verdicts relative to other courts," states the study, released by the International Center for Law & Economics.

The study, which utilized data from the Administrative Office of Pennsylvania Courts, compared filing trends and case outcomes in Philadelphia with those of other Pennsylvania state courts. Through his research, Wright concluded that "something intrinsically unusual is occurring in Philadelphia."

This includes the fact that Philadelphia courts host an especially large number of cases and have a larger docket than expected; Philadelphia plaintiffs are less likely to settle than plaintiffs in other state courts; and Philadelphia plaintiffs are disproportionately likely to prefer jury trials.

"These findings are consistent with a conclusion that Philadelphia courts demonstrate a marked and meaningful preference for plaintiffs, consistent with both the Complex Litigation Center's intention of inviting 'business' from other courts and criticisms that Philadelphia's courts provide a unique combination of advantages for plaintiffs," the study states.

The Complex Litigation Center handles mass tort cases such as asbestos lawsuits and other drug litigation or similar cases. It was designed to streamline mass tort cases and simplify resolution, but instead seems to have created a climate "inviting" to businesses from plaintiffs in other jurisdictions, the study states.

"While this may provide additional work for Pennsylvania lawyers, it also increases the cost of operating the civil justice system in Philadelphia and Pennsylvania more generally - a cost borne by the state's consumers and businesses," Wright's study concludes.

To personal injury lawyer Brent Weiand, of the Philadelphia firm Golomb & Honik, the findings aren't that surprising.

To view the entire article, visit the Pennsylvania Record.

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