Risperdal, pelvic mesh suits cause spike in filings at Philadelphia's mass torts program

By John O'Brien | Feb 19, 2015

PHILADELPHIA – Mass tort filings in Philadelphia’s Complex Litigation Center jumped more than 150 percent from 2013 to 2014.

A yearly statistical breakdown provided by the CLC, which houses lawsuits in 11 mass tort areas, shows that lawsuits against pharmaceutical makers shot up after two relatively calm years.

Specifically, 987 lawsuits over the drug Risperdal and 694 filed over pelvic mesh products led to 2,095 new lawsuits in 2014.

There were more Risperdal lawsuits filed in 2014 than all mass tort programs combined in 2013, when only 813 were filed.

Along with 2012’s 816, those two figures represented an effort to correct the CLC’s reputation after the American Tort Reform Association named Philadelphia the No. 1 Judicial Hellhole in its 2011 report.

ATRA blamed the CLC’s heavy activity, which reached its pinnacle with 2,690 lawsuits filed in 2011, on former coordinating judge Sandra Mazer Moss and Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas President Judge Pamela Pryor Dembe.

ATRA accused Moss of inviting mass tort filings and Dembe of promoting the CLC in order to use the fees associated with those cases to help with the court’s budget.

In 2012, Court of Common Pleas Administrative Judge John Herron signed an order that eliminated the CLC’s controversial practice of reverse bifurcation, in which a damages trial is held before a liability trial in the same case, and limited consolidation in mass tort cases.

That year, only 816 new cases were filed and 1,803 concluded. That continued in 2013, when 813 were filed and 1,908 concluded.

But 2014’s new filings outnumbered those that concluded by almost 800. There were 4,643 pharmaceuticals cases pending as of Jan. 4.

The records also show that out-of-state plaintiffs are dominating the pharmaceuticals filings.

Of the 1,827 new pharmaceutical cases, 1,617 (89 percent), came from out-of-state plaintiffs.

The 89 percent is consistent with the court’s history. The lowest percentage was 2005’s 81 percent.

The figures also show that 268 new asbestos cases were filed in the CLC, the lowest since 2009’s 238 and down 62 cases from 2013’s record 330.

Figures from 2005-11 reflect new filings, as well as cases transferred to the CLC. From 2012-14, only new filings are counted.

From the Pennsylvania Record: Reach editor John O’Brien at jobrienwv@gmail.com.

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