Cracked Justice: Philadelphia’s Magnet Court Making Progress but in Need of Greater Reform

Philadelphia courts have been too friendly to trial lawyers, and consequently hostile to businesses. Philadelphia’s status as the nation’s most feared legal jurisdiction stems from a legal reform designed to improve the way the city’s courts function: the 1992 creation of a Complex Litigation Center (CLC) to deal with “complex, multi-filed Mass Tort cases,” which was opened in response to ballooning case dockets and costs. Although the CLC was relatively successful in expediting cases, it soon emerged as a “magnet” court for mass-tort litigation—attracting lawsuits from across Pennsylvania and the nation with plaintiff-friendly legal rules and outsize jury awards. Recent legislation and changes have been helpful, but further reform is essential to ensuring fair justice in Philadelphia—and to reviving the city’s economic prospects, as well as those of Pennsylvania as a whole. A comprehensive reform agenda would include changes to laws relating to questions and issues of venue, evidence, and damages.

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