Are You Living in a Judicial Hellhole™?
Judicial Hellholes™ are litigious environments where excessive lawsuits abound and civil justice is out of balance. Judges and courts apply liberally, or even overturn, the law. Plaintiffs’ attorneys push novel theories to expand lawsuit authority. And legislators pass liability-expanding laws or are unable to pass reasonable limitations on liability.
Nine locations landed on the American Tort Reform Association’s list of 2015 Judicial Hellholes™.
- New York City Asbestos Litigation (NYCAL)
- Madison County, Illinois
- Hidalgo County, Texas
- Newport News, Virginia
- U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Texas
California, the land of abusive asbestos litigation and excessive product liability theories, has taken the top spot three of the last four years. California’s consumer protection liability statutes are ambiguous enough to engender excessive litigation and generous enough to allow high recoveries for low-merit lawsuits. California is home to a disproportionately large number of lawsuits based on the Americans with Disabilities Act. Despite the Act’s worthwhile aim of guaranteeing equal access for the disabled, some lawyers have abused this statute to create a cottage industry securing quick lawsuit payoffs arguably without seeking material improvements to disability accessibility.
New York City’s Asbestos Litigation (NYCAL) court has been a source of excessive litigation for years. Former New York Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver has been convicted of corruption for taking kickbacks and extorting money for political and legal favors, some of which were for currying favor with NYCAL and his firm, Weitz & Luxenburg. With Silver and others out and new leadership in, NYCAL may soon temper the fraudulent claims and unreasonable demands on defendants that have been typical there for years.
Florida’s courts frequently overturn reasonable legislative efforts to reign in frivolous litigation and find ways to expand rather than temper excessive liability. From expanding bogus “bad faith” insurance litigation to using questionable reasoning to overturn medical liability limitations, Florida continues to be an epicenter of excessive liability.
Number 4, Missouri, suffers from outdated expert witness standards that allow junk science to be considered in court, and the legislature has been unable to pass meaningful reform. The state Supreme Court struck down reasonable limitations on punitive damages in 2014 that created a ratio of punitive to compensatory damages much more generous than even the U.S. Supreme Court has recommended. And the Show-Me state has seen an uptick in asbestos litigation from litigants with no geographical ties to the region.
Madison County, Illinois, 2015’s 5th worst Judicial Hellhole™, has made the list most years. Madison County is home to nearly a third of the nation’s asbestos lawsuits but less than 1% of the U.S. population.
In 2016, Judicial Hellholes™ should resolve to improve their liability laws and encourage even-handed justice in the courts.