> 2012 score: 51.3
> Treatment of class-action suits: 4th worst
> Damages: 4th worst
> Admissibility of evidence: 15th worst
> Judges’ impartiality: 6th worst
Compared to other states, Illinois scored the worst for having and enforcing meaningful venue requirements, which can limit forum shopping, ranking second lowest in that category behind West Virginia. The American Tort Reform Association consistently labels both Madison County and St. Clair County as one of a handful of “judicial hellholes” because they host litigation that originates outside of the state. The group notes that the counties are magnets for both asbestos and pharmaceutical litigation. According to the ILR, Chicago/Cook County was considered the jurisdiction with the “least fair and reasonable litigation environment,” while Madison County was considered the sixth-worst jurisdiction.
> 2012 score: 50.6
> Treatment of class-action suits: the worst
> Damages: 2nd-worst
> Admissibility of evidence: 12th-worst
> Judges’ impartiality: 11th-worst
Regarding jurisdictions with legal environments that are the “least fair and reasonable,” 16% of corporate lawyers mentioned Los Angeles, 9% mentioned San Francisco, and another 9% mentioned California but did not specify a jurisdiction. In a video statement, Donohue contends that “Los Angeles is the worst city in America, from a legal perspective, to have a business … and San Francisco is not far behind.” Respondents especially disapproved of how the state treated class action lawsuits, giving it the worst rating nationwide. Additionally, respondents criticized how the state assessed damages, giving it the second-worst rating nationwide. In one particular case, according to the San Francisco Chronicle, Philip Morris was ordered in 2009 to pay $13.8 million in punitive damages for causing the addiction and death of a 45 year-old smoker. The second court of appeals in Los Angeles upheld the ruling in 2011.
> 2012 score: 46.6
> Treatment of class action suits: 3rd-worst
> Damages: 6th-worst
> Admissibility of evidence: 3rd-worst
> Judges’ impartiality: 2nd-worst
Only 3% of the survey respondents gave the state an A for its handling of tort and contract litigation, while 35% of respondents gave the state a D or F. Respondents also showed concerns about the fairness of judges and juries in the state. The state was rated the worst in judge competence and jury fairness, with 14% and 17% of respondents giving it an F in both measures. The state was ranked the sixth-worst in terms of how it assesses damages, with 33% of respondents grading it a D or an F. Currently, the Fifth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals is determining whether the a state law limiting noneconomic damages in civil cases to $1 million is constitutional.
> 2012 score: 46.5
> Treatment of class action suits: 2nd-worst
> Damages: 3rd-worst
> Admissibility of evidence: 2nd-worst
> Judges’ impartiality: 3rd-worst
According to Rickard, “despite recent positive developments, Louisiana is still notorious for excessive verdicts, loose class-certification standards, and an unfair judiciary.” These assertions correspond to how corporate lawyers feel about the state, which ranked third-worst among all states for how it assessed damages, second-worst to California for how it accepted and handled class action lawsuits, and third-worst for both judicial impartiality and competence. Further, for each of the 10 measures the ILR used to assess states’ legal systems, Louisiana was rated among the worst five states.
1. West Virginia
> 2012 score: 44.8
> Treatment of class action suits: 5th-worst
> Damages: the worst
> Admissibility of evidence: the worst
> Judges’ impartiality: the worst
A whopping 29% of respondents gave the state an F for how it assesses damages, while another 22% gave it a D, making West Virginia the worst state in that category. While the state has a $500,000 cap on noneconomic damages in cases where a plaintiff suffers serious medical harm, it is unclear whether it only applies to medical doctors and hospitals or if it can be defined more broadly. This debate was reopened after a family was awarded $91.5 million after an 87-year old woman living at a nursing home died from dehydration. The verdict included $11.5 million in compensatory damages. Respondents to the ILR also had deep misgivings about judge and jury fairness. The state ranked at the bottom in terms of judge impartiality, and second from the bottom in judge competence and jury fairness.
-Alexander E.M. Hess, Michael B. Sauter and Samuel Weigley
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