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Delaware once again tops the list of U.S. states with the best legal climate, according to a report released Wednesday by the Washington-based U.S. Chamber Institute for Legal Reform.
The survey, conducted for the ILR, which was founded by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, by Harris Interactive, was based on responses of nearly 1,600 corporate attorneys, who rated West Virginia as having the worst legal climate in the United States.
Delaware has been No. 1 for the six years of the survey's existence. Other top states cited in the report "Lawsuit Climate 2007: Rating the States" are Minnesota, Nebraska, Iowa and Maine.
In addition to West Virginia, the lowest-rated states were Louisiana, Alabama, Illinois and California.
"We've been telling some of the worst states for six years now that they need to improve their lawsuit system in order to attract new business and grow jobs and, for a number of states, the message appears to be getting through," said Tom Donohue, president and chief executive officer of the U.S. Camber of Commerce in a statement. "But some states are learning that they also need to make sure their courts correctly apply the law. The bottom line is this: Even though we're seeing some improvements, from the perspective of global competitiveness, we're only as good as our worst states. So we need to keep working."
Even before the survey was released, Jon Haber, CEO of the Washington-based American Assn. for Justice, issued a statement blasting the study as "propaganda" and "a made-up survey primarily of corporate lawyers earning millions of dollars defending their CEOs from being held accountable."
The AAJ, formerly known as the Assn. of Trial Lawyers of America, countered with its own list of the "10 worst states to get sick or injured in." It cited states with caps on noneconomic losses, such as Alaska, or on certain medical malpractice awards, such as Virginia.
Somewhat ironically, West Virginia also made the AAJ's list of worst states because of its definition of and limits on noneconomic damages in a state medical malpractice liability law.