JUDICIAL HELLHOLES® SUMMARIES
#1 CALIFORNIA “The Golden State” once again regains its position as the No. 1 Judicial Hellhole® thanks to its relentless pursuit of liability-expanding principles. California’s appellate courts are the first to hold e-commerce companies strictly liable for products sold on their sites. Baseless Prop-65 lawsuits thrive in courts and the volume of litigation continues to skyrocket. Small businesses are weighed down by frivolous Private Attorney General Act (PAGA) and Americans with Disability Act (ADA) lawsuits and the state’s unique Lemon Law provides windfalls for plaintiffs’ lawyers. In addition to the troublesome courts, the activist attorney general continues to push an expansive view of public nuisance law and the legislature ignores the need for reform and pushes a liability-expanding agenda.
#2 NEW YORK The “Empire State” is mounting a strong challenge for the No. 1 spot as the state’s leadership seems intent on creating the worst legal climate in the nation. The gap between California and New York is narrow, as the two jurisdictions battle it out for the most “no-injury” class action lawsuits and the most claims under the Americans with Disabilities Act. New York also has an activist attorney general that is on the front lines of the battle between climate change activists and energy companies. The state is a preferred jurisdiction for asbestos litigation and, like California, the legislature ignores the need for reform and continues to push a liability-expanding agenda.
#3 GEORGIA SUPREME COURT The significant deterioration of the “Peach State’s” civil justice system has propelled the state supreme court to its highest-ever ranking at No. 3. The Georgia Supreme Court eliminated apportionment of fault in certain cases and expanded bad faith liability for insurers. It also adopted an expansive view of jurisdiction of its courts over out-of-state businesses. Nuclear verdicts are bogging down business and third-party litigation financing is playing an increasing role in litigation.
#4 PHILADELPHIA COURT OF COMMON PLEAS & THE SUPREME COURT OF PENNSYLVANIA The “Keystone State’s” fall from the No. 1 position was in no way a reflection of progress or improvements made in the state, but rather indicative of the number of issues plaguing other jurisdictions. The Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas continues to be a preferred court for mass torts. Plaintiffs from across the country flock to the Court of Common Pleas because of its reputation for excessive verdicts and its “open door” policy to out-of-state plaintiffs. The state’s comparative fault system is in jeopardy and the Pennsylvania Supreme Court issued several liability-expanding decisions, including one that will spur more consumer class actions.
#5 COOK, MADISON AND ST. CLAIR COUNTIES, ILLINOIS This trio of Illinois counties is a magnet for asbestos litigation and “no-injury” lawsuits stemming from the state’s Biometric Information Privacy Act (BIPA). Making matters worse, the Illinois General Assembly is one of the most plaintiff friendly legislatures in the country and Governor J.B. Pritzker supports a liability-expanding agenda to the detriment of Illinois citizens and small businesses.
#6 LOUISIANA The optimism expressed in last year’s Judicial Hellholes® report that Louisiana’s litigation environment was moving in the right direction faded in 2021. State leadership impeded progress and the state’s civil justice system failed to improve. 2021 brought a veto of a much-needed bill to rein in deceptive lawsuit advertising practices and coastal litigation continues to drain state resources. Judicial misconduct appears to run rampant across the state and the investigation continues into a massive scheme to defraud commercial truckers and insurers in Louisiana courts.
#7 CITY OF ST. LOUIS A perennial Judicial Hellhole®, the City of St. Louis once again finds itself on the list; however, the “Show-Me-Your-Lawsuit” state has made important progress through legislative reforms. While the legislature has prioritized civil justice reform, there is more work to be done. The City of St. Louis Circuit Court is notorious for allowing blatant forum shopping and permitting “junk science” to permeate the court room. Additionally, there is uncertainty around the state’s standard for punitive damages, which is dangerous in a court known for excessive awards.
#8 SOUTH CAROLINA ASBESTOS LITIGATION A newcomer to the Judicial Hellholes® list in 2020, South Carolina’s consolidated docket for the state’s asbestos litigation has developed a reputation for discovery abuse, unwarranted sanctions, low evidentiary requirements, and multi-million-dollar verdicts. As a result, the state has become a hot spot for asbestos claims. While the volume of litigation dramatically decreased this year, in large part due to COVID-19 shutdowns, the court’s tendency to favor plaintiffs continues.