Judicial Hellholes: Six Jurisdictions On Deck
Each year, the American Tort Reform Foundation (ATRF) publishes a report of “Judicial Hellholes” that highlights jurisdictions that are unfavorable to companies or defendants involved in civil litigation. The group named the top five “hellholes” that included California, West Virginia, Illinois (Madison County), New York (Albany and New York City), and Maryland (Baltimore). For the entire report, see “Judicial Hellholes: Top 5 According to the ATRF” or www.judicialhellholes.org. Beyond the top five, the ATRF further mentioned Philadelphia, South Florida, Cook County (Illinois), New Jersey, Nevada and Louisiana as jurisdictions that will be scrutinized due to proposed legal reform, changes in judiciary or court management, and histories of abusive litigation.
- Philadelphia: Last year, Philadelphia was listed as the #1 Judicial Hellhole in the nation. This year, the jurisdiction saw changes in the management Complex Litigation Center (CLC), judicial-led reform to attempt a more fair handling of cases, and new law that attempts to proportion liability among defendants based on fault.
- South Florida: State law regarding no-fault auto insurance coverage has been reformed, which is expected to decrease fraudulent plaintiff cases. Further, there is a challenge to the state’s limit on non-economic damages in medical malpractice cases that could affect whether there is an increase or decrease in filings of those cases.
- Cook County: Chicago, Illinois courts are historically dangerous courts for corporations because the courts are known for “expansive liability and excessive verdicts.” However, after key successful defense appeals and increased scrutiny on the judiciary, the jurisdiction may not be as frightening for companies.
- New Jersey: New Jersey courts are home to pharmaceutical litigation and medical liability cases. Nevertheless, New Jersey courts have decided that name brand drug manufacturers are shielded from liability based on claims involving generic drugs manufactured by competitors. Further, there have been changes in the judiciary in some counties that are home to asbestos litigation that may provide more evenhanded application of the state law.
- Nevada: In the past, the state attorney general has used out-of-state attorneys compensated on a contingent-fee basis to prosecute state law violations by businesses. This practice is being reviewed, though, and may bring an end to the use of private lawyers who are compensated based on the size of the fines imposed.
- Louisiana: Louisiana is a historically litigious environment with aggressive personal injury attorneys, high thresholds for obtaining a jury trial, and large awards to plaintiffs. The legislature has been working on addressing concerns in the state, and has recently curbed litigation aimed the oil and gas industry which had cost the state thousands of jobs.
The counsel and courts in these jurisdictions will be watched by the ATRF over the coming months to determine whether they will be included on future hellholes lists. For further discussions regarding these jurisdictions, refer to www.judicialhellholes.org for the full report.
Feb 02, 2015