Posts Tagged ‘ATRA’

ATRA’s “Judicial Hellholes 2008”

The American Tort Reform Association is out with its annual ranking of the jurisdictions where it thinks civil defendants are farthest from being assured a fair trial, and they are:

  1. West Virginia
  2. South Florida
  3. Cook County, Ill.
  4. Atlantic County, NJ
  5. Montgomery and Macon Counties, Ala.
  6. Los Angeles County, CA
  7. Clark County (Las Vegas), Nev.

The list reflects the views of big-company managers and lawyers as to tort lawsuits; a poll of, say, doctors might result in different nominations (Brooklyn, Bronx, Long Island*, Philadelphia) and one of class-action or patent-infringement defendants would likely produce yet other lists.

ATRA has a supplementary “Watch List”, nicknamed by some of us “Heckholes”, of toasty but not quite infernal jurisdictions, on which it places the Rio Grande Valley and Gulf Coast of Texas, Madison County, Ill., Baltimore, Md., and St. Louis city and county and Jackson County, Mo. It also offers side essays on notable scandals among high-rolling lawyers, trial lawyer-AG alliances, and pro-plaintiff’s-bar lobbying efforts.

Some coverage of the report: Pero, ShopFloor (with this and this on AG alliances), Ambrogi, Genova, CalBizLit (“We’re Number 6! We’re Number 6!), TortsProf, Miller (Baltimore), and Turkewitz (cross-posted from Point of Law; also note this recent post).

* Commenter VMS makes a case that Long Island does not belong on such a list.

New at Point of Law

Carter Wood has been doing great things lately with the National Association of Manufacturers’ Shop Floor blog, which often treats legal reform topics. Since Monday he’s also been posting up a storm guestblogging at Point of Law. Topics include: ATLA/AAJ’s juvenile pre-nose-thumbing at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s 2008 Lawsuit Climate Report (which, like similar studies from ATRA and Pacific Research Institute, tries to pick best and worst state legal environments); the employment-litigation-expanding Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act (more); some thoughts on journalistic shield laws; and sundry reports from the Geoffrey Fieger trial, Florida politics, and Texas Supreme Court-watching.

Judicial Hellholes 2007

ATRA’s remarkably successful annual Judicial Hellholes report highlighting the high and low points of several jurisdictions’ legal systems is out. (PDF) Regular readers will recognize many of the stories and jurisdictions (and an op-ed I wrote even gets a shout-out), but the report is a handy summary of the year in tort reform and lawsuit abuse. Lots of news coverage (AP/; National Law Journal; the Examiner; others) and blog coverage (Lattman; Bader; Torts Prof; NAM; NAF; Murnane; Pharmalot).

November 13 roundup

  • Ethical questions for Vioxx lawyers [WSJ law blog] And who’s going to make what? [same; more from Ted at PoL]
  • American lawyers shouldn’t get all self-congratulatory about the courage shown by their Pakistani counterparts [Giacalone; more]
  • Just another of those harmless questionnaires from school, this time about kindergartners’ at-home computer use. Or maybe there’s more to it [Nicole Black]
  • Probe of personal injury “runners” bribing Gotham hospital staff to chase business nets another conviction, this one of a lawyer who stole $148,000 from clients [NYLJ; earlier]
  • Facebook sometimes sends text messages to obsolete cellphone numbers relinquished by its users, so let’s sue it [IndyStar]
  • Series on defensive medicine at docblog White Coat Rants [first, second, third]
  • Arm broken by bully, student wins $4 million verdict against Tampa private school; bully himself not sued [St. Petersburg Times]
  • Washington, D.C. reportedly doing away with right to contest a traffic parking ticket in person [The Newspaper, on “the politics of driving”]
  • “Walking headline factory” Scruggs to be arraigned November 20 [Rossmiller]
  • More on whether government’s refusal to alter paper currency discriminates against the blind [Waldeck, ConcurOp via Bader; earlier]
  • Eric Turkewitz hosts a truly marathon Blawg Review #134 [NY Pers Inj Law Blog]

Something is Rotten in the State of Delaware

Why have some of the trial bar’s heaviest hitters in asbestos litigation infested Delaware – firms like including Simmons Cooper, Baron and Budd, and the Lanier law firm?

Why did the American Tort Reform Association (ATRA) place Delaware – which has always had a business-friendly reputation – on its “watch list” in the 2005 and 2006 editions of its “Judicial Hellholes” report?

One thing’s for sure – the trial bar’s legal talent isn’t circling Delaware because they love the state’s beautiful beaches.

The problem arises from a series of Delaware Supreme Court decisions that gave trial lawyers the green light to file hundreds of toxic tort cases. Out-of-state law firms are now busy turning Delaware into Ground Zero of the asbestos-litigation morass, but the overwhelming majority of plaintiffs have no connection to Delaware whatsoever. Approximately 80% of the plaintiffs in asbestos cases have never set foot in Delaware.

The numbers are startling. According to ATRA, in the year following May 2004 only 61 asbestos claims were filed in Delaware. But over the next 16 months, 272 asbestos cases were filed – a 345% increase. That number has now increased to 525 asbestos cases filed since May 1, 2005.

Due to this flood of lawsuits, the Delaware Superior Court has scheduled trials in as many as 85 cases to begin on a single day. The Court has also ordered defendants to try multiple cases in multiple courtrooms at the same time.

There are other warning signs. Delaware allows joint and several liability and has no limits on punitive damages. And newly-elected Attorney General Beau Biden is a former plaintiff’s asbestos lawyer.

Other states – such as Texas and Mississippi – have countered the flood of out-of-state lawsuits by enacting venue reforms – a measure that could help prevent the trial bar from turning Delaware into a “judicial hellhole.”

Steve Hantler

Location, Location, Location: The Best & Worst Legal Climates in America

Given the economic costs imposed by today’s legal system (a staggering $865 billion per year according to one recent estimate), it’s surprising more companies don’t take into account a state’s liability climate when making critical decisions like where to open a new plant or invest in existing facilities.

A new report could help change that.

Risky Business: The Annual Boardroom Guide to Litigation in the 50 States provides the first ever ranking of state legal environments that combines economic science, real world corporate experience and input from state legal reform experts – people with the most current intelligence from the front lines.

It builds on a few landmark studies, including the American Tort Reform Association’s “Judicial Hellholes,” the Pacific Research Institute’s U.S. Tort Liability Index, and the Institute for Legal Reform/Harris Interactive survey.

So where are the soundest states – and where is the swampland?

Nebraska and Virginia top the list with the best legal climates. What do they have in common? Reasonable limits on punitive damages, a “rule of law” majority on the state Supreme Court, and Attorneys General who specialize in law enforcement, not grabbing the spotlight at the expense of businesses.

In stark contrast, West Virginia, Rhode Island and Florida round out the bottom of the list. All have activist Supreme Court majorities who consistently rule in favor of trial lawyers. West Virginia has a governor who supports legal reform – a reminder that having a pro-reform governor does not necessarily translate into a sound legal environment.

To see the full list go here.

Steve Hantler

Breaking: Pearson loses pants suit

A judge has ruled in favor of the defendant Chung family in the mishandled-dry-cleaning case, and awarded them (relatively minor) court costs. Pearson is expected to appeal; the Chungs’ lawyer says the family expects to ask eventually that he also be made to pay their attorney fees, but D.C. law sets the bar for such a request relatively high, so it’s by no means something they can count on. Coverage: Washington Post and its Marc Fisher and OFF/beat blogs, more. Earlier: here and here.

More: And here’s word of a fundraiser for the Chungs’ legal defense, next month in D.C., sponsored by the Chamber and ATRA.