Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Holding Business Hostage Pennsylvania Has Earned a Bad Reputation for 'Litigation Tourism' by Tim Grant Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Holding Business Hostage Pennsylvania Has Earned a Bad Reputation for 'Litigation Tourism' by Tim Grant Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Article excerpt

When a business in Allegheny County is sued by a resident of Butler County and the case is tried in a Philadelphia courtroom, it suggests there is a problem with the legal system -- and is one example of why the U.S. Chamber of Commerce has ranked Pennsylvania as having one of the worse lawsuit climates in the nation.

The study, which ranked Pennsylvania 40th, essentially found that it is too easy to sue companies in the state, compared to most states. Pennsylvania also makes it possible to engage in "litigation tourism," in which plaintiff's lawyers forum shop for favorable venues where it may be easier to cash in.

"When it relates to businesses, there are few if any rules about where the case will be heard," said Gene Barr, president of the Pennsylvania Chamber of Business and Industry in Harrisburg. "Plaintiffs' attorneys believe, for whatever reasons, they have a more receptive audience in Philadelphia."

That might explain why an accident involving two North Carolina residents, which occurred last year in North Carolina, is currently being heard in Philadelphia, Mr. Barr said. "Ford Motor Corp. is being sued by the plaintiff," he said. "The plaintiff's lawyer in Philadelphia sent a flatbed truck to North Carolina to pick up the car and bring it to Philadelphia and filed suit in Philadelphia Common Pleas Court."

Another example he used involves a slip-and-fall case in Bradford County. The plaintiff is from Bradford County, the business where the injury occurred is in Bradford County and multiple witnesses to the slip and fall reside in Bradford County.

Yet the lawsuit was filed in Philadelphia.

"There's no good reason why these case should be in Philadelphia other than the plaintiff's lawyers feel they have a better chance of success with a Philadelphia jury," Mr. Barr said.

Mr. Barr says while Pennsylvania has made some reforms to its legal system, more reforms will be needed to improve the state's reputation for supporting businesses.

"We have a climate that is viewed as not conducive to business growth and not fair and equitable to all parties," Mr. Barr said. "When you have chief counsels with this kind of perception regardless of how they got it, it will affect investment decisions made by those corporations, which may mean they steer businesses away. …

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