While many Philadelphians are struggling economically, the city has been a major revenue center for mass-tort plaintiffs' lawyers. These big-ticket litigators have developed a sophisticated business model and outsize profits, leading the Manhattan Institute to dub their collective enterprise "Trial Lawyers, Inc." But where Trial Lawyers, Inc. tends to thrive, traditional businesses tend to flee—which means that the litigation industry's Philadelphia successes have contributed to the exodus of jobs from the City of Brotherly Love and depressed economic growth across the Keystone State.
Philadelphia courts have been so friendly to Trial Lawyers, Inc.—and hostile to businesses—that the American Tort Reform Association has named the jurisdiction the nation's worst "judicial hellhole" two years running. Philadelphia's status as the nation's most feared legal jurisdiction stems, somewhat ironically, 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 the Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas 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 the Commonwealth and nation with plaintiff-friendly legal rules and outsize jury awards. Recent legislation and changes in case management have stemmed the tide of litigation somewhat, but further reform is essential to ensuring fair justice in Philadelphia—and to reviving the city's economic prospects, as well as those of the broader Commonwealth.