> 2012 score: 55.3
> Treatment of class-action suits: 9th worst
> Damages: 10th worst
> Admissibility of evidence: 9th worst
> Judges’ impartiality: 17th worst
In each of the past three surveys, Florida was rated as one of the 10 worst states by the lawyers surveyed by the Institute for Legal Reform. In this year’s survey, Florida has been rated the eighth-worst state for companies looking for the prompt dismissal of a case. Respondents were also dissatisfied with how the state’s legal system assessed damages, with 61% of respondents giving Florida a C grade or worse. In a statement, Lisa A. Rickard, president of the ILR, said, “Florida’s litigation climate can be attributed in large part to its notorious reputation for exorbitant jury awards.” Tom Donohue, president of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, similarly described the state’s jury awards as “ridiculously high.”
> 2012 score: 55.0
> Treatment of class-action suits: 11th worst
> Damages: 8th worst
> Admissibility of evidence: 10th worst
> Judges’ impartiality: 10th worst
The corporate attorneys who responded to the survey are not big fans of Oklahoma’s court rules regarding damages. Only 7% of respondents gave the state an A in this area, while 34% gave it a D or F. This comes despite Oklahoma enacting tort reform in 2011 that included a $350,000 cap on noneconomic damages in civil liability cases. In fact, the Tulsa World reported in July that malpractice judgments against defendants are at a 10-year low due to these policies. Lawyers gave the highest marks to the state for “having and enforcing meaningful venue requirement,” which measures factors such as how easy it is to bring in a case in a pro-plaintiff jurisdiction. Of the respondents, 46% gave the state an A or a B in that regard.
> 2012 score: 52.8
> Treatment of class-action suits: 8th worst
> Damages: 5th worst
> Admissibility of evidence: 8th worst
> Judges’ impartiality: 4th worst
Alabama’s corporate attorneys had numerous concerns about how litigation was handled in the state. In particular, respondents to the ILR survey were dissatisfied with how the state determined and enforced rules for filing and trying lawsuits within the state, with 55% of respondents giving Alabama a grade of C or worse. Respondents also disliked how the state assessed damages, with almost two-thirds providing a grade of C or lower, and 15% or respondents giving Alabama an F. Of all the measures, lawyers gave judicial impartiality the lowest score.
7. New Mexico
> 2012 score: 52.7
> Treatment of class-action suits: 6th worst
> Damages: 7th worst
> Admissibility of evidence: 6th worst
> Judges’ impartiality: 7th worst
Only 2% of respondents gave New Mexico an A for the overall state grade. Meanwhile, 45% gave the state a C, while 26% gave it either a D or an F. In terms of fairness in assessing damages, 15% gave the state an F and an additional 13% gave the state a D. The American Medical Association notes that the state has a $600,000 cap on total damages, excluding punitive damages and the cost of medical care. The state also received a low score for treatment of class-action suits, with 21% of respondents giving the state a grade of D or F. The issue of class-action suits made headlines in New Mexico in Oct. 2011 when state judge James Browning allowed a class-action suit against credit rating agencies to proceed. Similar attempts to file suits against the agencies regarding the claims they made on mortgage-backed securities previously failed.
> 2012 score: 52.2
> Treatment of class-action suits: 19th worst
> Damages: 9th worst
> Admissibility of evidence: 5th worst
> Judges’ impartiality: 5th worst
Corporate lawyers gave Montana’s legal system a big thumbs-down, as 13% of survey respondents gave the state an overall F rating, while just 6% rated the state an A. Reviews were even worse when attorneys were asked to give their opinion on how well tort and contract cases were handled — 20% of respondents gave the state an F, while just 7% were A ratings. Judges in the state were also rated poorly by attorneys, who ranked both the impartiality and competence of Montana judges as being inferior to all-but four other states.