#1 PHILADELPHIA COURT OF COMMON PLEAS Philadelphia is home to an astounding $8 billion product liability verdict in 2019. Mass tort cases have inundated the Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas due to judges’ loose application of venue laws, a reputation for high jury verdicts, and an overall lack of legal reform. Trial lawyers spend millions of dollars on television advertisements to increase the pressure on defendants to settle cases. The city also remains one of the preferred jurisdictions for asbestos litigation.
#2 CALIFORNIA A perennial Judicial Hellhole, California’s fall from the No. 1 spot in 2019 cannot be attributed to any improvement in the state’s liability climate, but rather results from the severity of the problems plaguing Philadelphia. California courts allow innovative lawsuits to proceed and the burdensome Prop-65 law is exploited by the plaintiffs’ bar. The state is a magnet for class action lawsuits, and given the courts’ and legislature’s anti-arbitration stance, it is not expected to improve. In addition, California has adopted expansive employment law liability that is expected to lead to extensive lawsuit abuse.
#3 NEW YORK CITY New York trial lawyers continue to target small businesses with American with Disabilities Act claims, and the number of consumer lawsuits filed against the food and beverage industry remain on the rise. The legislature pursued a very plaintiff-friendly agenda while much-needed reform to New York’s “Scaffold-Law” continued to stall. Businesses are fleeing the state, as liability expands at every given opportunity.
#4 LOUISIANA The state of Louisiana, led by Governor John Bel Edwards, has developed a propensity to hire former campaign donors to represent the state in litigation. Rampant lawsuit abuse is driving up the cost of auto insurance. The legislature has failed to address these problems. Judicial misconduct by Louisiana judges also dominated the news cycles in 2019.
#5 THE CITY OF ST. LOUIS, MISSOURI Judges in St. Louis continue to disregard both state law and U.S. Supreme Court precedent. They are reluctant to end forum shopping and allow plaintiffs’ lawyers to introduce junk science in the courtroom. The Missouri Supreme Court also issued several liability-expanding decisions and provided windfalls to plaintiffs’ lawyers in 2019. The Missouri legislature has enacted modest reforms, but there is more to be done.
#6 GEORGIA A newcomer to the list of Judicial Hellholes, Georgia makes an appearance due to the courts’ dramatic expansion of premises liability and nuclear jury verdicts. Medical liability is on the rise following the Georgia Supreme Court’s decision to strike down commonsense reforms. Several important cases also are pending before the high court. It has the opportunity to realign itself in a fair and just manner or further solidify the state’s status as a Judicial Hellhole.
#7 COOK, MADISON AND ST. CLAIR COUNTIES, ILLINOIS This trio of Illinois counties is a magnet for no-injury class action lawsuits. The courts also have allowed frivolous lawsuits to proceed under the state’s Biometric Information Privacy Act, a goldmine for the plaintiffs’ bar. The counties are a hotbed for asbestos litigation and the preferred jurisdictions by trial attorneys. There is little hope for change as the legislature is hyper-focused on a liability-expanding agenda.
#8 OKLAHOMA Another newcomer in 2019, Oklahoma makes its first appearance on the Judicial Hellholes list due in part to Attorney General Mike Hunter’s mishandling of the state’s opioid litigation. The Oklahoma Supreme Court has made a habit of issuing liability-expanding decisions and the state’s legislature has failed to address the growing problems.
#9 MINNESOTA SUPREME COURT/ TWIN CITIES The Minnesota Supreme Court issued several troubling decisions in 2019. It expanded medical liability and employer liability under workers’ compensation laws. In addition, an appellate court upheld unwarranted sanctions against an in-state employer. The legislature continues to turn a blind eye to the abuses and proposed reforms once again stalled.
#10 NEW JERSEY LEGISLATURE In 2019, the New Jersey Legislature distinguished itself as one of the most plaintiff-friendly legislatures in the country. While the Judicial Hellholes report typically focuses on the courts, the New Jersey Legislature is an exception because of its drastic liability-expanding agenda. The legislature enacted a so-called “Wage Theft” bill with excessive penalties and advanced its attack on arbitration.