America’s Top 9 Worst Judicial Hellholes®

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Left unchecked, these jurisdictions will continue dragging down economic growth and undermining justice through rampant lawsuit abuse.

Judicial Hellholes® – we’ve all heard the term, but what exactly are they? Simply put, Judicial Hellholes® are places where the legal system is stacked against businesses and individuals. These jurisdictions are known for excessive lawsuits, outrageous damage awards, and a legal climate that’s downright hostile to anyone who isn’t a trial lawyer.

The American Tort Reform Foundation’s latest annual Judicial Hellholes® report highlights the Top 9 worst offenders of the year:

1. (TIE) Georgia

The Peach State is tied for the top spot, thanks to the Georgia Supreme Court’s never-ending quest to expand liability and hand out massive jury awards. Neither the judiciary nor the legislative branches are willing to take responsibility for the state’s poor civil justice system, though lawmakers recently passed some legislation to study the issue further.

1. (TIE) The Supreme Court of Pennsylvania & The Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas

Pennsylvania’s high court and the Philly Court of Common Pleas tie with Georgia for No. 1 after a Pennsylvania Supreme Court ruling opened the floodgates for out-of-state plaintiffs to file lawsuits in the City of Brotherly Love. Throw in a nearly $1 billion verdict from the Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas, and you’ve got a recipe for a Judicial Hellhole® of epic proportions. Plaintiffs’ lawyers from across the country flock to file lawsuits in Philly, where the courts are famous for their “more is better” approach to damages.

2. Cook County, Illinois

Cook County is drowning in lawsuits, from biometric privacy claims to food labeling class actions. The Illinois legislature hasn’t helped improve the situation, either, instead passing laws that make it easier to sue and harder to defend yourself in court. All these lawsuits come at a high price, too. Cook County is responsible for the vast majority of Illinois’ nuclear verdicts – those verdicts that are $10 million or higher.

3. California

The Golden State is ground zero for lawsuit abuse of every variety. Prop 65 warnings on everything from coffee to yoga mats, no-injury lawsuits under the Private Attorney General Act, and drive-by accessibility lawsuits abusing the Americans with Disabilities that target small businesses – California has it all. The state’s plaintiff-friendly “Lemon Law” has become a cash cow for the personal injury bar, with “lemon” lawsuits actually increasing in spite of automobiles becoming more reliable and having a lower frequency of problems. The legislature is too busy expanding liability to fix the problems, and the courts are more than happy to go along for the ride.

4. New York City

The Big Apple is rotten to the core when it comes to its civil justice system. Expansive liability laws make NYC a magnet for consumer class actions that don’t actually claim any injury as well as lawsuits that abuse the ADA. Litigation financing firms are pouring gasoline on the fire, bankrolling more and more lawsuits. Unfortunately, lawmakers in Albany are too busy doing the trial bar’s bidding to do anything about it.

5. South Carolina Asbestos Litigation

South Carolina’s asbestos litigation has a well-deserved reputation for being plaintiff-friendly to a fault. Biased judges stack the deck against defendants while issuing unwarranted sanctions, liability-expanding rulings and severe verdicts. Low evidentiary requirements, unfair trials, a willingness to overturn or modify jury verdicts to benefit plaintiffs – it’s all par for the course in the Palmetto State’s consolidated docket for asbestos litigation.

6. Lansing, Michigan

Michigan’s capital city is a newcomer to the Judicial Hellholes® rankings, but they’re making up for lost time. The Michigan Supreme Court expanded liability left and right last year, from premises and workplace liability to an expansive approach to medical liability. Meanwhile, lawmakers pursued a liability-expanding agenda with more on the horizon.

7. Louisiana

Never-ending coastal litigation bleeds the Bayou State’s economy and is made worse by lawsuit lending and shady insurance schemes. Plus, when the outgoing governor had a chance to bring some transparency to the system, he dropped the ball and vetoed reform legislation.

8. St. Louis

The “Gateway to the West” is more like the “Gateway to Excessive Damages” as judges allow junk science and jackpot justice, producing an endless stream of nuclear verdicts. St. Louis courts have an international reputation as a plaintiff’s paradise and rather than rein in lawsuit abuse, state lawmakers in Jefferson City have failed to move reforms.

Left unchecked, these jurisdictions will continue dragging down economic growth and undermining justice through rampant lawsuit abuse. This should be a wake-up call for anyone who cares about fairness and balance in the legal system – the trial bar’s free-for-all has gone on for too long.
Read ATRF’s full 2023-2024 Judicial Hellholes® report at and mark your calendars for the release of the 2024-2025 rankings in December.

Curious about the potential impact of these Judicial Hellholes® on your business operations? Contact us to explore how joining ATRA can play a pivotal role in rebalancing our legal system to ensure fairness and equity for all.

Stay informed, stay engaged, and let’s chart a course through the ever-evolving legal terrain together.


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