The third annual “Judicial Hellholes” report – a ranking of the worst courts in the United States – shows a disturbing scenario for one Illinois county.
As a result of what happens in the Hellhole courts, every consumer reportedly pays through a higher “tort tax” and compromised access to affordable healthcare.
In addition to identifying Judicial Hellholes, places where “Equal Justice Under Law” does not exist, the report also showcases the remarkable turnaround that has occurred in Mississippi, home to several of the worst Judicial Hellholes, including Jefferson County.
Jefferson County stands in sharp contrast to Madison County, Illinois, the worst jurisdiction in this year’s report — for the second year in a row.
“The report tells an amazing story about the redemption of Mississippi
justice,” said Sherman Joyce, president of the American Tort Reform
Association (ATRA). “Mississippi has managed to pull itself out of the
negative spotlight through the resolve of the voters and elected officials in the executive, legislative and judicial branches. Mississippi is a stark contrast to Madison County, Illinois, where problems have only gotten worse.”
According to the report, the abusive and unfair practices endemic to
Madison County have infected neighboring St. Clair County, where the number of class action lawsuits filed in the past two years has increased by an astounding 1100%. This is the first year that St. Clair County has been named a Judicial Hellhole. It is now #2 on the report’s list.
“Judicial Hellholes are courtrooms throughout the United States where the law is not applied evenhandedly to all litigants,” said ATRA General Counsel Victor Schwartz. “Litigation tourists, guided by their personal injury lawyer agents file lawsuits in Judicial Hellholes because they know they will receive a large reward, a favorable precedent, or both. Defendants declare good reason to fear when sued in Judicial Hellholes.”
Other report highlights include:
* Illinois’ Madison and St. Clair Counties, where a lawsuit-driven healthcare crisis will have forced 161 physicians to leave the region by the end of the year.
* Hellhole #3 Hampton County, South Carolina, where 67% of cases filed in 2002 were filed by residents from other counties and other states.
* Hellhole #4 West Virginia, where the state’s Supreme Court ruled that a safety director fired for on-the-job cocaine use could not be terminated, even though the employee lied about his cocaine use and “dishonesty” was grounds for dismissal within the employee’s contract.
* Hellhole #5 Jefferson County, Texas, where a judge upheld a $1 billion award in a healthcare lawsuit — a blatant deviation from established Texas law; the judge also refused to admit critical evidence that the defendant might not have been responsible for the plaintiff’s harm.
The report also chronicles abuses in other jurisdictions, including: #6 Orleans Parish, Louisiana; #7 South Florida; #8 Philadelphia; and #9 Los Angeles. “Dishonorable mentions” include Oklahoma, the Utah Supreme Court, the District of Columbia and New Mexico’s Appellate Courts.
“Just like Mississippi, we need to focus on fixing each individual Hellhole, but we also need a national solution to prevent personal injury lawyers from simply moving on to the next new place they can file their lawsuits,” Joyce said.
Judicial Hellholes 2004 has an expanded section on solutions for Judicial Hellholes. In addition, the “Points of Light” section describes interventions that have helped stem lawsuit abuse in Judicial Hellholes.
Today, each U.S. citizen reportedly pays an annual “tort tax” that is more than $800. Lawsuit abuses like those detailed in Judicial Hellholes 2004 reportedly contribute to that burden.
For a copy of Judicial Hellholes 2004, visit http://www.atra.org.
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