St. Louis ‘Judicial Hellhole’ Judges Permit ‘Junk’ Science Evidence, Known Haven for Trial Lawyers
Residents pay $1,463 annual ‘tort tax’ amid record-high inflation
St. Louis was included among the worst “Judicial Hellholes®” in the nation today, according to a new report from the American Tort Reform Foundation (ATRF). This marks the ninth year that jurisdictions in Missouri have been named on the list.
“St. Louis judges repeatedly fail in their gatekeeping duties, allowing juries to hear junk science that’s presented as ‘expert evidence,’” American Tort Reform Association President Tiger Joyce said.
The report specifically cites concerns about the tens of thousands of lawsuits in St. Louis claiming that the main ingredient in Roundup weedkiller, glyphosate, causes non-Hodgkin lymphoma.
Environmental safety agencies in the United States, Canada, Brazil, Australia, New Zealand, Japan and the European Union have spent decades reviewing the health impacts of glyphosate. All agree that no credible evidence exists linking glyphosate to non-Hodgkin lymphoma. The trial bar has relied primarily on the claims of a single group called the “International Agency for Research on Cancer” which parted from all other research when it deemed glyphosate a “probable human carcinogen.”
“Despite overwhelming evidence of glyphosate’s safety as well as expert evidence reforms set forth by the legislature, St. Louis judges have repeatedly failed to ensure that cases brought before them are guided by sound science,” Joyce said.
ATRF says St. Louis judges’ leniency around expert evidence has led law firms across the country to flock to St. Louisto file their lawsuits.
In August, the first St. Louis Roundup trial went to verdict. After hearing a month of questionable scientific evidence brought by the plaintiffs’ lawyers’ witnesses, the jurors ultimately agreed with the defendant. The case fell apart under cross-examination as the expert witnesses proved less than credible.
“While jurors may have bailed out the system this time around, St. Louis judges must embrace their role as gatekeepers and not allow junk science in their courtrooms if they wish to ever lose their ‘Judicial Hellhole’ moniker,” Joyce said. “We can’t depend on jurors to do the job of a judge – the jurors never should have heard this junk science in the first place, but thankfully they saw through it this time.”
Research shows that St. Louis residents pay a “tort tax” of $1,463 per person and 30,663 jobs are lost each year. If Missouri enacted specific reforms targeting lawsuit abuse, the state would increase its gross product by over $5.6 billion and St. Louis’ gross product would increase by over $3 billion.
ATRF says trial lawyers know that St. Louis judges have a propensity for liability-expanding decisions and lawyers spend millions of dollars on advertising in the region to increase their client counts. According to the report, trial lawyers spent $5.29 million on more than 75,400 local television advertisements in St. Louis alone from January through August 2022.
“Lawsuit abuse and excessive tort costs wipe out billions of dollars of economic activity annually,” Joyce said. “While the state’s legislature has prioritized civil justice reform and should continue to do so, judges in St. Louis must follow the laws set forth and truly seek to rebalance their courts.”
The 2022-2023 Judicial Hellholes® report also cites the high prevalence of asbestos litigation as well as St. Louis courts’ ignoring legislative reforms regarding introducing “phantom damage” amounts in trials as contributing factors to the city’s ranking.
The 21st edition of the annual report published by ATRF names eight Judicial Hellholes® in total, deemed the most unjust local courts and state civil justice systems in the country:
- The Supreme Court of Pennsylvania and the Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas
- New York
- Cook County, Illinois
- South Carolina Asbestos Litigation
- St. Louis
The full report is available at JudicialHellholes.org.