The most recent list of judicial hellholes has just been released by the American Tort Reform Association. It lists “courts in Philadelphia; California’s Los Angeles and Humboldt counties; West Virginia; South Florida; Cook County, Illinois; and Clark County, Nevada, as some of the worst in the nation” for lawsuit abuse. The list is accompanied by an executive summary and a detailed report. (I previously wrote about how courts in Clark County are a threat to Nevada’s economy, and how they mishandle personal injury, divorce, and family law cases to redistribute wealth.)
As Carter Wood notes at Point of Law,
“Philadelphia’s transgressions are definitely noteworthy. Incredibly, there’s an actual strategy to encourage more litigation as a form of local ‘economic development.’ From ATRA’s news release:
Philadelphia is a source of great concern due to the philosophy and trial practices of its Complex Litigation Center, as well as the area’s reputation for excessive verdicts. The judicial leadership is engaged in a campaign to draw in massive personal injury lawsuits from around the country, viewing the increase in lawsuits and out-of-town lawyers as a boost for the court’s revenues and the local restaurants and hotels. Controversial practices, such as ‘reverse bifurcation,’ unfairness in multiple trials against the same defendant at the same time, and combining multiple cases into a single trial provide incentives for plaintiffs’ lawyers to bring their claims to the City of Brotherly Love. Punitive damage awards over $1 million have reportedly tripled in Philadelphia courts. State tort law that is out of the mainstream further encourages lawsuits.”
Another phenomenon fueling judicial hellholes is the vast amount of government red tape and new laws constantly being generated, which judicial hellholes turn into a basis for more lawsuits even when the red tape was only intended to be enforced by administrative penalties and not private lawsuits. Activist judges treat technical infractions of arbitrary government rules as being negligence per se or breaches of a newly-created duty of care. ATRA general counsel Victor Schwartz has worked to rein in the worst excesses in this area, and to keep courts from imposing unjustified duties of care more generally (for example, he has worked to pass state laws barring courts from allowing trespassers to sue homeowners for accidental injuries sustained as a result of trespassing).
State attorney generals have also abused their power in recent years to enrich their cronies and foment more lawsuits. In 2010 and 2007, CEI issued reports rating the nation’s worst state attorneys general.
Image credit: maveric2003’s flickr photostream.