California - A Judicial Hellhole?

Well not quite, but it is now on the Watchlist according to the American Tort Reform Foundation (ATRF). The annual report issued by ATRF gives the latest rankings of America's least fair legal climates. These are places where judges systematically apply laws and court procedures in an inequitable manner, generally against defendants in civil lawsuits. This is ATRF's eighth annual report.

This year, California has been placed on the report's Watchlist. The Watchlist shows jurisdictions that may be moving closer or further away from other Hellholes as their respective litigation climates improve or degenerate. I think it is fair to say that ATRF feels California might be slipping further and further into the litigation abyss.

In the past, the Hellhole reports have focused on the out-of-control litigation in Los Angeles, Orange County and San Francisco. California once again appears for numerous reasons. Recent poorly-reasoned California Supreme Court decisions have placed the state's citizens and businesses in jeopardy of expanded liability. Plaintiffs' lawyers have been able to game the system in Los Angeles' substantial asbestos docket and a first of its kind ruling in the California Appellate Court allowed a lawsuit against a brand name drug manufacturer for injuries allegedly caused by a competing generic drug. The report states that California can expect more lawsuits and more eye-popping verdicts in the future.

California is looking at a coming budget deficit of more than $21 billion and an unemployment rate hovering around 12 percent. Businesses are struggling to survive and California continues to be at the bottom of most lists when it comes to its business climate.

Fighting for civil justice reform is not just limited to trial lawyers and state legislatures. More focus needs to be paid to the courts. Legal reforms can be overturned or thrown out by the courts. The fight for civil justice reforms ends in the court. If people can't count on the jury system or the court system then they will have no faith in the process. Businesses will not locate to a state that is awash in litigation and has an out-of-control court system.

Cross posted at Fox and Hounds Daily.

Go to top