Protecting Pennsylvania From Lawsuit Abuse!

Date: August 31, 2018

Guest Column from PA Coalition for Civil Justice Reform

This column is written by Curt Schroder, Executive Director of the Pennsylvania Coalition for Civil Justice Reform. NFIB in Pennsylvania is a member of that Coalition.


What do Junior Mints, Starbucks Lattes, Home Depot 4x4s, Subway Foot Long Hoagies, and Terra Cotta Warriors all have in common?  They are all subjects of ridiculous and abusive lawsuits filed by contingency fee chasing plaintiffs’ attorneys! The maker of Junior Mints was sued because the candy didn’t fill the box it came in. Starbucks was sued for putting too much cream in its lattes. Apparently, some attorneys don’t know that wood shrinks when it dries so 4x4s end up not measuring exactly 4×4. Someone must have been really starving to sue Subway when their “foot-long” hoagie only measured 11.5 inches! And a visitor to Philadelphia’s Franklin Institute Terra Cotta Warriors exhibit felt so deceived by replica warriors placed among the authentic ones that he started a class action lawsuit demanding $5 million! These suits are emblematic of the problems facing our system of civil justice across America and right here in Pennsylvania.

Turn on your television and you will be inundated by advertising from plaintiffs’ firms seeking to sue drug companies, nursing homes, doctors and hospitals, and businesses of all sizes. The drumbeat is constant and people remember these messages every time they are slighted or annoyed. The ever-growing ranks of lawyers in our country push the envelope of established law and precedent to develop new and sometimes ridiculous legal theories under which to bring suit. The lawyers often achieve a settlement, taking thirty percent or more from the injured party for minimal time and effort.  

Lawsuit abuse has a detrimental impact on our commonwealth’s economy. Pennsylvania ranks a lowly 38 out of 50 states when it comes to having a litigation climate that is conducive to job creation and retention, according to recent surveys. It has also been estimated that Pennsylvania’s litigation climate reduces employment by up to 1.53 percent. 

While all businesses bear this tort burden, it is felt most acutely by small businesses. The tort liability price tag for small businesses in America has been estimated at $105.4 billion. A study found small businesses paid $35.6 billion of that tort cost out of pocket as opposed to through insurance.

The impact of a civil justice system run amuck is no longer limited primarily to the business and medical communities. Just recently, Penn State University revoked recognition from three “club” organizations due to risk and liability concerns. One club, the Outing Club, has been on the Penn State campus for nearly a century.  It is doubtful that hiking, backpacking, canoeing, and trail maintenance has become riskier over the last century.  In our increasingly litigious society, it has become too risky for Penn State and other institutions to continue covering clubs like these under their insurance policies. The propensity to sue for any injury or slight, regardless of fault, places Penn State and any organization with “deep pockets” right in the crosshairs of the plaintiff’s bar.

The Pennsylvania Coalition for Civil Justice Reform (PCCJR) was launched in January 2017 to combat lawsuit abuse. Since our founding, the PCCJR has become the recognized voice for improving our liability laws to provide a level playing field for small businesses, health care, professions, non-profits, and others who are targeted by plaintiffs’ attorneys. The PCCJR elevates awareness of civil justice issues and advocates for legal reform with the legislature.   Our mission is to create a civil justice system that: is balanced and fair to all parties; applies the laws evenly based on the facts; provides access to justice for those truly injured, and discourages abusive litigation.

Please visit the PCCJR’s website at to learn more about us. 

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