Judicial Hellholes: Top 5 According to the ATRF
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. Although the name implies that a jurisdiction is included on the list due to the action/inaction of the judges, often the locations listed as “hellholes” earn the title based on the number and type of filings or the law applied in the jurisdiction. This year, the list includes California, West Virginia, Illinois (Madison County), New York (Albany and New York City), and Maryland (Baltimore). For the entire report, see www.judicialhellholes.org.
- California: This jurisdiction is included in the list largely due to the influx of personal injury firms opening offices and/or filing cases in the state. The California court resources were challenged by increased filings, but then were further tested by loss of court staff and cuts to court budgets. Thus, cases face delays, as well as uncertainty surrounding whether an unfavorable ruling will be allowed an appeal.
- West Virginia: Even though the West Virginia Supreme Court has been issuing sound rulings, those involved in lawsuits based in West Virginia lack the full right to appeal unfavorable rulings. Nevertheless, the ATRF estimates that the environment may become more favorable in coming years, following the results of November election results in the state.
- Madison County, Illinois: Lawsuit filings in Madison County, Illinois are always high, and 2012 filings are expected to break all records. In addition, there have been changes in management procedures for the asbestos docket, as well changes in the judiciary with the election of a former head of the Illinois Plaintiff’s bar to the appellate bench.
- New York: New York is historically a hot bed for civil lawsuits, in part due to unique state laws that impose additional liability on business owners or property owners. Some laws impose liability on those who begin construction projects, regardless of fault, and these laws help to foster the half-billion dollars per year in tort liability that is imposed on business owners in New York City.
- Maryland: Asbestos suit filings have increased, in part due to plaintiffs’ attorneys’ referring to Baltimore, Maryland as a “home run jurisdiction” for asbestos cases. The jurisdiction’s inclusion on future hellholes lists will in part be determined by whether attorneys will be successful in attempts to put an end to state law that bars recovery to plaintiffs who are at fault for their own injuries.
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. See “Judicial Hellholes: Six Jurisdictions On Deck” or www.judicialhellholes.org for further information on these courts to watch.Nov 30, 2022