Philadelphia Common Pleas Court Issues General Court Regulation on Mass Tort and Asbestos Programs


On February 15, 2012, the Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas issued General Court Regulation No. 2012-01, significantly altering the protocol governing mass tort cases. The order reflects the court's challenge of keeping its case disposition rate in line with American Bar Association (ABA) standards and the recent increase in case-filings, particularly by out-of-state plaintiffs. From 2007 to 2011, 82.2 percent of cases were disposed of within 31 to 36 months, leaving almost one-fifth of the court's caseload pending more than three years from filing. The court's ultimate goal is to eventually reach the ABA standards of resolving at least 40 percent of the mass tort cases within 24 to 25 months of filing. According to the court, "the Asbestos Program was by far the one Mass Tort Program most out of compliance with the standards."

The order addresses the increasing number of out-of-state asbestos filings in Philadelphia. During the early part of 2009, certain members of the court openly invited the filing of asbestos cases from other jurisdictions, unaware that the court’s disposition rate was at 42 percent. As a result, the yearly average number of out-of-state filings spiked from approximately 33 percent from 2001 to 2008, to 47 percent in 2011.

Below are the highlights of General Court Regulation No. 2012-01, which the court will revisit in November 2012 to determine if more changes should be made.

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