The American Tort Reform Foundation (ATR) published its 2021-2022 Judicial Hellholes Executive Summary. The report highlights the most prominent jurisdictions across the United States known for allowing innovate lawsuits, welcoming litigation tourism, and expanding civil liability.
The 2021-2022 Judicial Hellholes
The ATR’s top judicial hellholes are:
(1) California. “The Golden State” is back in the No. 1 Judicial Hellhole spot due to appellate courts holding e-commerce companies strictly liable for products sold on their sites, “baseless” Prop-65 lawsuits, “frivolous” Private Attorney General Act (PAGA) and American with Disabilities Act (ADA) claims, and the AG promoting an “expansive view” of public nuisance law.
(2) New York. “The Empire State” is right behind California for having one of the worst legal climates in the nation. The ATR notes this is due to New York’s unmatched number of “no-injury” class actions, ADA lawsuits, and immense asbestos litigation docket.
(3) Georgia Supreme Court. Georgia’s highest Court has vaulted the State to its highest Judicial Hellhole ranking by eliminating apportionment of fault in certain claims, expanding bad faith liability for insurers, and adopting a broad view of jurisdiction its courts have over out-of-state businesses.
(4) Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas & The Supreme Court of Pennsylvania. Pennsylvania falls from the number one spot due to increased issues afflicting California, New York, and Georgia. “The Keystone State” stays in the top four due to its preference as a venue for mass torts, excessive verdicts, and “open door” policy for non-resident plaintiffs.
(5) Cook, Madison, and St. Clair Counties, Illinois. These three Illinois counties have cemented themselves as a top Judicial Hellhole because they are magnets for asbestos litigation and “no-injury” lawsuits in a state with a plaintiff-friendly legislature that is second to none.
(6) Louisiana. This southern state has taken a step backwards (or rather, “forwards” on this list) and is back as a top Judicial Hellhole due to increased deceptive lawsuit advertising, coastal litigation draining the State’s resources, rampant judicial misconduct, and the ongoing investigation into a colossal scheme designed to defraud insurers and commercial truckers.
(7) City of St. Louis. Although “The Show Me State” has prioritized civil justice reform, the City of St. Louis Circuit Court has developed a reputation for permitting forum shopping and “junk science,” while uncertainty surrounds Missouri’s punitive damages standard in this venue famous for excessive verdicts.
(8) South Carolina Asbestos Litigation. “The Palmetto State” makes its second consecutive appearance as a Judicial Hellhole despite the dramatic decrease of litigation in 2021. South Carolina’s consolidated asbestos litigation docket continues to uphold its reputation for “discovery abuse, unwarranted sanctions, low evidentiary requirements, and multi-million dollar verdicts.”
The 2022 Hellhole Watchlist
Additionally, the ATR Foundation’s Judicial Hellhole Executive Summary notes five “Watch List” jurisdictions that may be trending towards or away from a designation as a Judicial Hellhole in 2022: The jurisdictions to keep an eye on are: (1) Florida Legislature (tort reform bills continue to stall on issues such as medical damages, litigation financing, and attorneys’ fees); (2) Colorado (courts allow dubious scientific expert testimony and the legislature is targeting the State’s employer with liability-expanding legislation); (3) Texas’ Fifth District Court of Appeals (ongoing liability-expanding decisions in product liability cases); (4) Maryland (the medical malpractice climate remains unstable but Baltimore is working through its decades-long asbestos backlog); and (5) Minnesota (noticeable litigation inactivity caused by COVID-19 but the State still has some of the most plaintiff-friendly medical malpractice laws).