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Philly Living Up to Designation as Worst Judicial Hellhole

The Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas is now home to the largest single-plaintiff Roundup verdict in the nation after a jury awarded an astounding $2.25 billion in damages at the end of January. Through the first month of 2024, the court continues to solidify itself as the nation’s No. 1 Judicial Hellhole.

Thomas Kline, the plaintiff’s lawyer in the case, teased that the Roundup® program was “going to be the marquee program [in the Philly Complex Litigation Center] for the foreseeable future” and he is doing his part to make sure that happens. Never mind that science isn’t on his side. The Pennsylvania Supreme Court helped pave the way by adopting a lesser standard for expert evidence ensuring that junk science can permeate state courthouses. In Walsh v. BASF, the Court refused to recognize the role of a trial court judge as a gatekeeper over the reliability of expert testimony. Pennsylvania is one of the last remaining states to use the weaker Frye standard when evaluating expert evidence.

This massive $2.25 billion verdict, one that the jury reached after only an hour of deliberation, follows the almost $1 billion verdict against Mitsubishi that was awarded in late 2023. That decision, which was riddled with pro-plaintiff jury instructions and questionable conduct by the judge, helped propel Philadelphia to the top of the most recent Judicial Hellholes report.

With eye-popping verdicts like these, it’s no wonder Philadelphia has become one of the plaintiffs’ bar’s favorite jurisdictions. Between 2017 and 2019, seven-figure awards made up three to seven percent of all Philadelphia verdicts. In 2022 and 2023, it grew to 11 percent of all verdicts. The percentage of plaintiff victories has likewise grown in Philadelphia from 41 percent in 2017 to 52 percent in 2023. 

Also of note, Judge Susan Schulman oversaw the case. In addition to presiding over this case, she was recently appointed to oversee the Court of Common Pleas newly developed medical liability program. This program was created to handle the wave of medical liability cases flooding Philly’s court system as a result of the Pennsylvania Supreme Court’s unilateral decision to eliminate the state’s medical liability venue rule.

With Groundhog Day right around the corner, it seems Philadelphia is prepared to bring more of the same lawsuit abuse and liability-expansion in 2024.

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