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Congrats, Philly! You Top the List of “Judicial Hellholes”

Philadelphia, home to the cheesesteak sandwich and the Liberty Bell, now has a new distinction: It just was rated the worst place in the country for a company to be sued. (Or perhaps, if you have a different perspective, the best place to be a plaintiff.)

The “worst” ranking comes from the Judicial Hellholes list. It’s a peppery annual assessment of civil courts put together by the American Tort Reform Assn., a business-backed group that bills itself as “the only national organization exclusively dedicated to reforming the civil justice system.”

The City of Brotherly Love tops the 9th annual list largely because of a specialized local court, the Complex Litigation Center, that handles mass tort claims, including asbestos cases and suits against pharmaceutical companies.

“The judicial leadership is engaged in a campaign to draw in massive personal injury lawsuits from around the country, viewing the increase in lawsuits and out-of-town lawyers as a boost for the court’s revenues and the local restaurants and hotels,” the ATRA report asserts.

It also faulted the Philadelphia courts for “excessive verdicts,” with “reportedly” fast-rising numbers of punitive damage awards of more than $1 million.

Following Philadelphia, in order, are the entire state of California (but particularly Los Angeles and Humboldt counties), West Virginia, South Florida, Cook County, Ill., and Clark County, Nev.

“While reasonable people may disagree about the specific rankings assigned to each, no one can reasonably argue that the jurisdictions cited in this report do not qualify as Judicial Hellholes,” the report said.

Except perhaps the Consumer Attorneys of California, which objects to the prominent mention of a Humboldt County verdict against corporate nursing home operator Skilled Healthcare. It countered that the “report blatantly mischaracterizes Skilled Healthcare as having “occasionally [fallen] below the staffing levels required by state legislators.”

“Even the most conservative jurors were outraged by the defendant’s cavalier attitude towards California’s minimum staffing laws,” Eureka attorney Tim Needham said in a statement.

The California trial lawyers group describes the association as funded by “a ‘who’s who’ of corporations with the most to gain by shutting the courthouse doors on consumers.”

The American Association of Justice, a national trial lawyers group, didn’t have any love for ATRA or its “hellholes” report either.

“Despite all the chemical companies and polluters behind this front group, it appears ATRA is going green — recycling the same junk report that has been debunked and ridiculed year after year. It’s an early holiday token of thanks to its drug, tobacco and insurance industry funders and a ploy for these corporations to continue their negligent behavior and avoid accountability,” the group’s communications director, Ray De Lorenzi, said in a news release.