Just in time for Mesothelioma Awareness Day (which is tomorrow), yesterday the Wall Street Journal recycled the same canned attack on the Philadelphia Complex Litigation Center that the Chamber of Commerce and other special interests have been pushing for some time. (See here and here for more about the attacks on Philadelphia’s courts.)
Ashby Jones at the Wall Street Journal retreads over Judge Pamela Dembe’s remarks about out-of-state plaintiffs from early 2009, taking the Chamber of Commerce’s bait hook, line and sinker:
When the Philadelphia court system faced budget cuts in early 2009, an influential judge there invited plaintiffs to bring the court their cases — and their filing fees.
The plan backfired.
After Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas Judge Pamela Pryor Dembe told defense lawyers she wanted to “take business away from other courts” by making Philadelphia’s more attractive to lawyers, “mass-tort” filings—made up mostly of asbestos and pharmaceutical claims—skyrocketed from 550 in 2008 to nearly 2,700 last year. The surge left an already busy court system buried in lawsuits and scrambling to repair the damage.
“Buried in lawsuits and scrambling to repair the damage” of 2,700 filings sounds just terrible. As the WSJ ominously notes, “Since 2008, the backlog of asbestos and pharmaceutical cases has shot up from about 2,600 to more than 6,100 through last month.”
As Churchill said, “truth is so precious that she should always be attended by a bodyguard of lies.” Let’s unpack this supposed “surge” in filings, and figure out what’s causing the Philadelphia Complex Litigation Center to be “buried in” a “blacklog” of 6,100 lawsuits.
First, let’s look at what those 6,100 lawsuits are. You can see the numbers yourself by going to the “case list” under each type of mass tort on the CLC’s website. 2,294 of the pending cases, or more than one-third of the total, are Reglan cases. 1,843 of the pending cases, nearly one-third of the total, are Yaz / Yasmin / Ocella cases.
Judge Dembe’s remarks about making the Philadelphia mass torts center so efficient that parties preferred it over other courts (a laudable goal; notice how Judge Dembe’s remarks were made to defense lawyers) were in March 2009. Check those case lists again and you can see when the lawsuits started piling up. The Yaz / Yasmin lawsuits against Bayer in Philadelphia state court began in July 2009, but fewer than twenty had been filed until October 2009. That uptick had nothing to do with Judge Dembe: it had to do with the August 14, 2009 issue of the British Medical Journal, which published two studies (here and here) showing Yaz and Yasmin had twice the blood clotting risk of comparable hormonal contraceptives. Similarly, only two Reglan cases were filed against Wyeth and Teva before October 2009, when they started coming in quickly — because in February 2009, the FDA had mandated a “black box” warning on Reglan for the possibility of tardive dyskinesia.
Following so far? Reglan and Yaz — cases primarily against Bayer USA and Wyeth, both Pennsylvania companies (Wyeth is literally in Philadelphia) — together account for just over two-thirds of the overall Philadelphia mass torts cases. Both of these mass torts were prompted not by anything Judge Dembe said, but by the public revelation that the drugs were far more dangerous that the pharmaceutical companies had said.
Continue Reading WSJ Clueless About Philadelphia Mass Torts Lawsuits