ATRA Reiterates Support for Chapter 11 Bankruptcy Use to Address Mass Tort Litigation, Urges Meaningful Dialogue Amid Senate Judiciary Committee Hearing
More Work Remains on Tort Reform
This letter-to-the-editor was originally published by The Herald-Dispatch in Huntington, WV. West Virginia was a mainstay on the American Tort Reform Foundation’s “Judicial Hellholes®” list for nearly 20 years, finally […]
West Virginia was a mainstay on the American Tort Reform Foundation’s “Judicial Hellholes®” list for nearly 20 years, finally making its exit in 2021.
ATRF’s annual report identifies places where judges in civil cases systematically apply laws and court procedures in an unfair and unbalanced manner, generally to the disadvantage of defendants. West Virginia jurisdictions were named to the official Judicial Hellholes® list for 13 years and then were included on the report’s “Watch List” for another six. One year, the circuit court of the Northern Panhandle even secured its own Judicial Hellhole® status.
But over the years, as lawmakers have enacted legal reforms to improve the state’s civil justice system, the state’s Supreme Court of Appeals has greatly improved. West Virginia now has a necessary and well-run intermediate appellate court, bringing it in line with the majority of state judicial systems. New leadership in the state legislature has resulted in the passage of dozens of much-needed legal reforms.
Lawmakers in West Virginia deserve a great deal of credit for all the work that has been done so far in fixing the state’s legal climate and making it more hospitable to small businesses. Along with several other transformational changes, the state is now attracting employers from all over the world with billions of dollars of new investment. Job creators who previously would never have considered the state before due to its unfair legal system now are looking at West Virginia as a more favorable location for their businesses.
But, if West Virginia truly wants to be a leading state for economic growth, there are still more improvements that can help West Virginia families. Decades ago, the West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals created an unprecedented expansion of lawsuits based on recovery of “medical monitoring.” This precedent has yet to be taken up and reformed by the legislature. During the recent legislation session, lawmakers also failed to address the issue of phantom damages in civil cases which unnecessarily inflate the cost of the civil justice system. Further, Kanawha County’s Circuit Court remains a haven for lawsuit abuse.
Meanwhile, every hardworking West Virginian pays a $621 “tort tax” each year due to excessive costs in the civil justice system. These excessive costs also result in a loss of more than 10,400 jobs and $713 million in personal income each year.
Now is the time for West Virginia to lead the charge regarding liability fairness. If voters continue to support fair jurists in the 2024 elections and if the legislature steps up and passes essential legal reform bills, West Virginia can truly be a shining light across the country. From the worst to the best, West Virginia can show everyone that it can be done.
Tiger Joyce is the President of the American Tort Reform Association (ATRA).
The lack of oversight and transparency around third-party litigation funding threatens the integrity of our legal system
Together, let’s forge a legal landscape that makes equitable access to justice a living reality for all Georgians.
This is an opportunity to reassess the practices and regulations surrounding private-attorney contracting and to enact reforms that promote fairness, transparency and value for taxpayer dollars.
Allowing the company to continue the bankruptcy process will help ensure equitable and efficient resolution in complex mass tort claims