Cutler Legislation Would Discourage Lawsuit Abuse, Create Jobs by Preventing Venue Shopping
12/5/2011
HARRISBURG – The House Judiciary Committee today approved legislation authored by Rep. Bryan Cutler (R-Peach Bottom) that would improve Pennsylvania’s civil lawsuit system and jobs climate by prohibiting venue shopping in certain personal injury lawsuit claims.

“Growing employment opportunities for Pennsylvania citizens is the single biggest issue we must address in this Commonwealth,” said Cutler. “Our economy cannot fully recover until we get people back to work, but employers have identified the state’s unbalanced civil justice system as a barrier to bringing jobs here. This legislation will help to correct one of the more notorious aspects of Pennsylvania’s civil lawsuit practices – venue shopping.”

House Bill 1976 would add a section to the Judicial Code specifying where a plaintiff may bring a personal injury lawsuit claim against a corporation. Such suits would be limited to: 

        • The county where the plaintiff resides. 
        • The county where the cause of action arose. 
        • The county where the registered office or principal place of business of the defendant 
          is located.

For cases in which multiple corporate defendants are named, the complaint must be filed in the county where the cause of action took place or in the plaintiff’s home county.

Cutler noted judicial trends appear to indicate that procedural variances in Philadelphia County attract more civil litigation and result in less settled cases, and jury-decided cases there disproportionally favor plaintiffs.

According to a report released in October by the International Center for Law and Economics, “Philadelphia courts host an especially large number of cases, Philadelphia courts have a larger docket than expected, Philadelphia plaintiffs are less likely to settle than other non-Philadelphia Pennsylvania plaintiffs, and Philadelphia plaintiffs are disproportionately likely to prefer jury trials.”

Current law allows a plaintiff to bring a suit in Philadelphia if any one of the defendants can be sued there. This encourages plaintiffs to find a marginal defendant eligible for suit in Philadelphia so all defendants can be sued there, even if the alleged injury occurred elsewhere or the principal parties are not located in the city.

“Every civil case brought before the courts in Pennsylvania should be tried based on the facts, without regard to where the case is being tried,” said Cutler. “Venue shopping makes a mockery of the justice system, and it is damaging to the economy and employment outlook of the Commonwealth. Cases should be tried where they arise, not in the most lenient venue in the state, which in Pennsylvania’s situation seems to be Philadelphia.”

House Bill 1976 will now go before the entire House for consideration.

Lawsuit abuse reform is a priority for Cutler, himself a practicing attorney, as well as the House Republican Caucus. Cutler supported legislation earlier this year, which has now been signed into law, to end joint and several liability. Act 17 of 2011, known as the Fair Share Act, states that a defendant in a civil lawsuit will be financially responsible only for its share of the damages, if it is found accountable for less than 60 percent of the total damages.

More information about Cutler and his legislative priorities is available at RepCutler.com or Facebook.com/RepBryanCutler.

State Representative Bryan Cutler
100th District, Pennsylvania House of Representatives
Contact: Nicole Wamsley
nwamsley@pahousegop.com
717.783.8063
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