In nine courts around the country, trial lawyers and judges work together in extracting large sums of money from people who may not deserve it, according to a new report.
By taking advantage of tort laws, the ease with which civil justice cases are tried in these “judicial hellholes” can lead to higher costs of medical services and health care, and goods and services, and have a negative impact on innovation, the American Tort Reform Association found.
The group examined courts across the nation and determined which civil courts, or “judicial hellholes,” were the most egregious in applying “laws and court procedures in an unfair and unbalanced manner.”
Many of the civil courts singled out by the organization lean heavily in favor of the plaintiff, according to the report, and demonstrate what the American Tort Reform Association views as a bias against defendants in civil cases.
“When we’re talking about free markets and economic prosperity, one of the biggest drags in terms of cronyism is where you’ve got lawyers and judges in various towns across the country that are in collusion to use their legal authority to unfairly extract money from people who don’t deserve it using the tort law,” Andrew Kloster, a legal fellow at The Heritage Foundation, told The Daily Signal. “That raises costs across the board for everybody.”
The American Tort Reform Association advocates for reforming the civil justice system and warns that abusing tort laws can lead to increases costs in a variety of industries.
“Tort reform is an attempt to return the tort system to its economically efficient foundations of helping to keep private wrongs out of the criminal system, to cheaply and quickly adjudicate private wrong to allow business growth,” Kloster said. “When you have a place without tort reform, you have have a drag on that growth. It’s a hidden tax.”
Specifically in the realm of health care, Kloster pointed to the effects that medical malpractice lawsuits can have on the price of insurance and medical services. Doctors must have insurance to protect from lawsuits involving patients who may not be able to prove that their harm was related to the one doctor’s procedure.
The ease with which patients can bring lawsuits against their former doctors—specifically in “judicial hellholes”—ultimately affects consumers.
“To account for the fact that there are these ‘judicial hellholes’ across the country, insurance companies raise the rates for covering doctors, and that’s passed along to customers,” Kloster said.
In part through its list, the American Tort Reform Association also seeks to push back on the influence trial lawyers have on state legislatures.
“[O]ur ‘Judicial Hellholes’ program since 2002 has been documenting troubling developments in jurisdictions where civil court judges systematically apply laws and court procedures in an unfair and unbalanced manner, generally to the disadvantage of defendants,” Tiger Joyce, president of the American Tort Reform Association, said in a statement.
Here are the “judicial hellholes” identified by the American Tort Reform Association.
According to the report, California trial lawyers frequently file suits against food and beverage companies and bring asbestos-related suits to the state’s courts.
- New York City Asbestos Litigation
Like Newport News and Hidalgo Counties, the New York City asbestos court is “unfair.”
In the Sunshine State, the Florida Supreme Court strikes down civil justice reforms passed by the state legislature, according to the American Tort Reform Association.
According to the American Tort Reform Association’s report, Missouri courts allow “junk science” in trials. Additionally, the plaintiff’s bar, which strikes down civil justice reforms, is very powerful.
- Madison County, Ill.
Like Newport News, many asbestos cases are tried in Madison County.
The 2015 “Judicial Hellholes” report criticized Louisiana for giving lots of power to judges, who are elected officials. Furthermore, the group said the state allows plaintiff’s lawyers to try cases in the court of their choosing.
- Hidalgo County, Texas
In this county, the American Tort Reform Association found that trial lawyers have filed more than 10,000 lawsuits against insurance companies in the state. The lawsuits came after hailstorms that occurred in 2012 and 2013.
- Newport News, Va.
The circuit court in Newport News sees many asbestos claims, and according to the “Judicial Hellholes” report, lawyers representing the plaintiffs have the highest win rate in the nation.
- U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Texas
According to the American Tort Reform Association, the federal court leads the country in patent litigation.