Delco Dominates Large Suburban Verdicts and Settlements

, The Legal Intelligencer


Thomas R. Kline


Over the last two decades, Delaware County has produced an outsized share of the largest reported verdicts and settlements in Philadelphia's four suburban counties, according to an analysis of data on damage awards.

Delaware County's high-value reported awards and settlements have come in at an average value of $6.8 million. That figure is the result of analyzing 20 years' worth of verdicts and settlements data from The Legal's annual publication, PaLaw magazine.

Since 1994, PaLaw has compiled a list of the largest verdicts and settlements in Pennsylvania as reported in the newspaper. All together, PaLaw documented a total of 884 verdicts and settlements between 1994 and early 2013.

Thomas R. Kline of Kline & Specter in Philadelphia said that while it's still difficult to achieve a plaintiffs victory in the counties, increasing diversity has affected a shift in jury attitudes in places like Delaware County.

"I do believe that the demographics of the suburban counties have changed," Kline said. "That has brought in a moderation both politically and in terms of the jury pool. I think that what we will predictably see is that there will be less of a feeling from insurance companies and institutional defendants that they have insulation and immunity from liability."

Data collected by PaLaw also shows that the four counties have similar averages in terms of the amount awarded in the largest verdicts and settlements over the past two decades.

Individually, Delaware County had the largest cumulative sum with $157.1 million, and an average dollar amount of $6.8 million; Montgomery County had a cumulative sum of $110.1 million and an average dollar amount of $5.5 million; Bucks County had a cumulative sum of $105.7 million and an average dollar amount of $6.2 million; and Chester County had a cumulative sum of $92.9 million and an average dollar amount of $6.2 million.

The largest single amount awarded in the Philadelphia suburbs was from Robley v. PennDOT, a $38.2 million motor vehicle verdict that originated in Delaware County in 2004.

The largest amount awarded within the last year from a Philadelphia suburb was a $6.9 million breach of contract verdict stemming from B.G. Balmer & Co. v. Frank Crystal & Co. in Chester County.

In contrast, the largest single amount in the state over the last 20 years was the $11.3 billion settlement in In re National Tobacco Settlement, which represented the state's portion of a $206 billion nationwide settlement between the country's four largest cigarette manufacturers and the attorneys general of 46 states and was approved in the Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas in 2000.

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