Friday, February 17, 2012


Changes implemented will likely weaken the ability for Pennsylvanians to obtain justice

HARRISBURG, PA – Yesterday, the First Judicial District Court of Pennsylvania announced several upcoming changes to the legal processes of the historically fair and nationally respected Complex Litigation Center (CLC).  

The rule changes will limit consolidation of mass tort litigation at the courts' civil trial division. Thus it arbitrarily abolishes punitive damages and directs out of state victims to avoid Philadelphia courts.  Mass tort litigation at the CLC has been praised for years by Philadelphia and Pennsylvania's own citizens to allow for fairness in the courtroom when trying to hold large corporations accountable for negligence.

“This move by the First Judicial District of Pennsylvania is nothing more than caving in to powerful corporate-funded lobbying groups,” said Michael Morrill, executive director of Keystone Progress. “Pennsylvanians lose and corporations win under this rule change.”

This decision may have a negative impact on current cases pending in the Philadelphia court system, including cases involving Bayer's birth control and acne drugs Yaz, Yasmin, and Ocella. As of November 2011, there were 10,000 plus cases nation-wide pending in which thousands of women from across the country have claimed their health has been severely damaged by Bayer’s birth control drugs Yaz, Yasmin, and Ocella. The alleged health impacts have included death, increased risk of blood clots and gallbladder surgery.  Since Bayer’s headquarters are located in Pennsylvania, many women have filed in Pennsylvania at Philadelphia’s CLC. The CLC has been nationally recognized to efficiently and fairly handle similar cases in the past.

At heart of the issue of this decision is that justice should be blind. The judicial system should not have to bend to the criticism of large, powerful lobbying groups like the American Tort Reform Association.

The American Tort Reform Association or ATRA, an extreme, conservative lobbying firm who has chipped away at consumers' rights for decades, hailed the decision as "very good news." ATRA’s mission is to limit an individual’s ability to hold corporations accountable, even when their products have caused serious physical, mental, or financial harm to consumers. Among ATRA's many supporters are tobacco and pharmaceutical companies, and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce is the nation's largest lobbying firm, spending five times more money on lobbying efforts than its next closest competitor, Exxon Mobil.  

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