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Mark A. Hofmann

California tops tort reform group's 2013 list of 'judicial hellholes'

December 17, 2013 - 10:10am


Civil courts in California, Louisiana, New York City, West Virginia, South Florida, and Madison and St. Clair counties in Illinois are among the nation's “most unfair,” according to the American Tort Reform Foundation's “Judicial Hellholes” report issued Tuesday.

The annual report documents developments in places where, it says, “judges in civil cases systematically apply laws and court procedures in an unfair and unbalanced manner, generally against defendants.”

“In addition to ranking and analyzing six 'Judicial Hellholes,' the places we consider the worst in which to face a lawsuit, this year's report also identifies 10 marginally less problematic jurisdictions on the 'Watch List,' along with some particularly bad court decisions we call 'Dishonorable Mentions,'” said Sherman Joyce, president of the Washington-based ATRA, in a statement.

California headed the list, where, the ATRA said, “average Californians feel the pinch of the he-sues-she-sues-everyone-sues litigation climate.” The report said the food industry is the latest target of the plaintiffs' bar in that state as attorneys “seek to take advantage of the state's plaintiff-friendly consumer protection laws and a federal court's perceived receptivity to such lawsuits.”

Louisiana ranked No. 2 on the list for what ATRA called the state supreme court's decision to give “new life to abusive 'legacy lawsuits' that threaten the state's onshore oil and gas production.”

But the report also pointed to several state courts as “points of light” that provide examples of, among other things, “fair and balanced judicial decisions that adhere to the rule of law and positive legislative reforms.”

That list included courts in Colorado, Idaho, Illinois, Maryland and New Jersey as well as the Oklahoma legislature and governor and the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

"ATRA continues to produce the same stale, ridiculed and debunked report year after year. Don't be duped – this project is nothing more than propaganda paid for by multinational corporations that want to evade accountability for harming and killing Americans," said a spokeswoman for the Washington-based American Association for Justice, which represents the trial bar.

The 2013/2014 Judicial Hellholes report is available here.