The U.S. Chamber of Commerce (via its American Tort Reform Foundation) has issued the 2018-19 version of its annual “Judicial Hellholes” report. Of special note this year, the report concludes some hellholes are threatening to appear in “red states,” including Georgia. The entire report is online at this page; pasted below are excerpts about a newly named entrant (the Twin Cities of Minnesota), and the watch list, which includes the Georgia Supreme Court and the Montana Supreme Court.
“#9 TWIN CITIES, MINNESOTA A newcomer to the Judicial Hellholes report, the Twin Cities’ position was solidified after the attorney general mishandled a lawsuit against a large Twin Cities employer and a Hennepin County trial judge stripped a company’s defenses. The lower courts appear to be following the lead of the state’s high court after it subjected property owners to expanded liability in 2018 and rejected a measure intended to remove “junk science” from the state’s courts.
Beyond the Judicial Hellholes, this report calls attention to seven additional jurisdictions that bear watching due to their histories of abusive litigation or troubling developments. Watch List jurisdictions fall on the cusp—they may drop into the Hellholes abyss or rise to the promise of Equal Justice Under Law.
COLORADO SUPREME COURT Liability-expanding decisions and rulemaking by the court coupled with prospects of a pro-plaintiff legislative agenda in 2019 has created an unfair and unbalanced environment for defendants in the Centennial State.
GEORGIA SUPREME COURT Georgia’s Supreme Court in recent years has issued decisions that significantly expanded civil liability, and that troubling trend continued in 2018.
MONTANA SUPREME COURT The Montana Supreme Court’s penchant for expanding liability, judicial activism, and defiance of U.S. Supreme Court precedent once again landed it on the Judicial Hellholes Watch List.
NEWPORT NEWS, VIRGINIA Perhaps most notable in 2018 is the lack of cases to go to trial in Newport News. Plaintiffs and defendants alike have sought to litigate asbestos cases in federal court, as a result, it is hard to know whether problems and inequities that have manifested themselves in the past will persist. Newport News has been known for its evidentiary double standards, unsound legal rulings and lack of transparency in asbestos litigation.
OHIO EIGHTH DISTRICT COURT OF APPEALS–CUYAHOGA COUNTY A newcomer to the Watch List, the district has developed a reputation for handing down large damage awards and being a “haven” for class action lawsuits. It has developed a troublesome pattern of issuing unbalanced plaintiff-friendly decisions, which had to be overturned multiple times by the Ohio Supreme Court.
PENNSYLVANIA SUPREME COURT The high court issued a series of liability expanding decisions and has been selective, at best, in following U.S. Supreme Court precedent, inexplicably opening its doors to out-of-state plaintiffs.
WEST VIRGINIA SUPREME COURT OF APPEALS In an unprecedented move, West Virginia lawmakers voted to recommend the impeachment of all sitting members of the state’s highest court in 2018. Prior to the impeachment chaos, the court also issued a disappointing class certification decision that rejects U.S. Supreme Court precedent and encourages plaintiffs’ lawyers from all over the country to flock to West Virginia courts to file class action lawsuits. The 2018 elections did bring about some encouraging news with the election of U.S Representative Evan Jenkins and former House of Delegates Speaker Tim Armstead to fill the vacancies on the court.