Pennsylvania Record

Sunday, September 22, 2019

Do we really want to be a magnet for mass tort cases?

Our View

By The Pennsylvania Record | Mar 12, 2018

America may be a mecca for immigrants, but Philadelphia County has become a magnet for mass tort plaintiffs, and the wretched refuse keep coming.

Someone should put up a giant statue at the county line, with these words inscribed: “Give me your torts, your plaintiffs, your huddling lawyers yearning for big fees.” Instead of tablet and torch, “Lady Liability” could hold a briefcase and a large $ sign, thus embodying the spirit of Philadelphia County as she beckons to litigants suffering oppression in less friendly venues.

Philadelphia’s Complex Litigation Center has several mass tort programs – including Xarelto, Risperdal and asbestos cases – with the percentage of claims brought by out-of-state plaintiffs historically in the high 80s. Last year, however, that figure soared to 94 percent.

Nearly 1,700 Xarelto cases are currently pending in Philadelphia, more than 6,600 Risperdal suits.

“After three verdicts for the defense in the federal court Xarelto bellwether trials, the Philadelphia court awarded $27.8 million to a Xarelto plaintiff,” Curt Schroder, executive director of the Pennsylvania Coalition for Civil Justice Reform, commented on the most recent Xarelto decision, noting that “punitive damages awarded in the amount of $26 million were 14 times the amount of compensatory damages.”

A Philadelphia judge had to step in to reverse that verdict, though last November, a 2015 defense verdict reached in favor of Risperdal manufacturer Janssen Pharmaceuticals in the mass tort proceedings held in the Philadelphia County Court of Common Pleas was reversed by Superior Court of Pennsylvania.

“Risperdal (risperidone) is an important medicine that, when used as part of a comprehensive treatment plan, continues to help millions of patients with mental illnesses and neurodevelopmental conditions,” a Janssen spokesperson said after the verdict was announced.

But how long will life-enhancing drugs like Risperdal and Xarelto remain available to the public when courts like our own encourage speculative, even frivolous mass tort suits against the manufacturers?

As Americans debate the economic and cultural impact of a continuing influx of legal and illegal immigrants, residents of Philadelphia County should also assess the effect that litigation immigration has on them and  us.

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Philadelphia County Court of Common Pleas Superior Court of Pennsylvania

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