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Group Puts Pennsylvania and Philadelphia Near Bottom of Business-Friendly Locales

By John Ostapkovich

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) -- A business advocacy group says Pennsylvania and Philadelphia in particular have a legal system that's unfair to businesses.

This ninth survey of corporate lawyers by the US Chamber Institute for Legal Reform puts Pennsylvania 40th among the states in legal fairness, and Philadelphia fifth worst among localities.

Lisa Rickard, the institute's president, says fairness is measured in terms of judicial impartiality, class action lawsuits, and damage award levels, among other things.

"How do they treat tort and contract litigation?  How do they deal with class action litigation?  Do they award very high damages or is it more fair across the board?"

She says Delaware was ranked the most business-friendly state, based on the attitude of its laws and its courts.

And Rickard says there's one major complaint among businesses, called "forum-shopping," wherein lawyers, when they have a choice of where to file a lawsuit, will choose a location with a history of decisions more favorable to their client.

"Plaintiffs from across the nation can bring their cases here in Pennsylvania and, in particular, in Philadelphia," Rickard notes.

West Virginia is the last place state, and Cook County, which includes Chicago, the worst locality.

Rickard says businesses take the legal climate into account in deciding where to create jobs.

Scott Cooper, the current president of the Pennsylvania Trial Lawyers Association, dismisses the survey as including only corporate lawyers with a corporate viewpoint.   He says a reform of the state's "joint and several liability" law last year has not produced the lower insurance rates its backers touted.


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