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2023-2024 Executive Summary

The 2023-2024 Judicial Hellholes® report shines its brightest spotlight on nine jurisdictions that have earned reputations as Judicial Hellholes®. Some are known for allowing innovative lawsuits to proceed or for welcoming litigation tourism, and in all of them state leadership seems eager to expand civil liability at every given opportunity.

For the first time in the history of the report, the Foundation has ranked two jurisdictions at the top of the list. Both Georgia and Pennsylvania’s courts, specifically the Pennsylvania Supreme Court and the Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas, share the unfortunate distinction of jointly being named the year’s No. 1 Judicial Hellholes®.

2023-2024 Judicial Hellhole Report

Every year we shine a light on the worst of the worst. The report shines its brightest spotlight on jurisdictions, courts or legislatures that have earned reputations as Judicial Hellholes®.

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#1 GEORGIA The “Peach State” maintained its position atop the list thanks to another year of high nuclear verdicts and liability-expanding decisions by the Georgia Supreme Court. Neither the judiciary nor the legislative branches are willing to take responsibility for the state’s poor civil justice system.

#1 THE SUPREME COURT OF PENNSYLVANIA & THE PHILADELPHIA COURT OF COMMON PLEAS A late-breaking venue decision by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court that will increase litigation tourism and an almost $1 billion verdict out of the Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas propelled these courts to the top of this year’s list. Additionally, there is a flood of medical liability litigation in Philadelphia courts thanks to the Pennsylvania Supreme Court’s decision to eliminate an important rule governing where lawyers may file these cases. The Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas continues to be a prolific producer of nuclear verdicts and liability-expanding decisions by the high court will only worsen the situation. 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.

#2 COOK COUNTY, ILLINOIS Lawsuits brought under the state’s Biometric Information Privacy Act bog down Illinois businesses and a new wave of no injury lawsuits is on the horizon. Food and beverage litigation floods the county’s dockets and liability-expanding legislation only worsens the problem. Additionally, an overwhelming percent of the state’s nuclear verdicts come out of the Cook County trial court.

#3 CALIFORNIA Endless Prop-65 litigation targets a variety of industries and no-injury Private Attorney General Act (PAGA) and Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) accessibility lawsuits bog down business. The state’s unique Lemon Law is a gold mine for plaintiffs’ lawyers and arbitration is under attack in both the courts and the legislature. California also is at the forefront of the environmental litigation battle.

#4 NEW YORK CITY Expansive liability laws have led to lawsuit abuse in the Big Apple. No-injury consumer class action lawsuits and lawsuits brought under the ADA bog down businesses and third-party litigation finance feeds the litigation machine. Additionally, rather than address the problems, the legislature chooses to pursue the trial bar’s liability-expanding agenda.

#5 SOUTH CAROLINA ASBESTOS LITIGATION South Carolina’s consolidated docket for the state’s asbestos litigation has cemented an unwelcome reputation for bias against corporate defendants, unwarranted sanctions, low evidentiary requirements, liability expanding rulings, unfair trials, severe verdicts, a willingness to overturn or modify jury verdicts to benefit plaintiffs, and frequent appointment of a receiver to maximize recoveries from insurers.

#6 LANSING, MICHIGAN A newcomer to the 2023 list, both the Michigan Supreme Court and Michigan Legislature bear responsibility for Lansing’s deteriorating civil justice climate. The high court expanded premises and workplace liability and adopted an expansive approach to medical liability. A barrage of liability-expanding legislation was introduced and enacted, with more on the horizon in 2024.

#7 LOUISIANA Coastal litigation drags on with no end in sight and is a burden on the state’s economy. Insurance schemes plague the system, and the outgoing governor vetoed much needed transparency legislation.

#8 ST. LOUIS Judges in St. Louis abandon their role as “gatekeepers” and allow junk science to be presented in their courtrooms. The courts are a prolific producer of nuclear verdicts and St. Louis has an international reputation as a plaintiff-friendly jurisdiction. Rather than address the lawsuit abuse, the legislature has failed to move reforms.


Beyond the Judicial Hellholes®, this report calls attention to three additional jurisdictions that bear watching due to their histories of abusive litigation or troubling developments. These jurisdictions may be moving closer to or further away from a designation as a Judicial Hellhole® and they are ranked accordingly.

KENTUCKY The “Bluegrass State” makes its first appearance on the Judicial Hellholes® report’s Watch List due to a handful of percolating issues. State courts have exposed those who report suspected fraudulent claims to liability, eliminated a critical screening mechanism for medical liability claims, and are experiencing larger verdicts. Additionally, some lawyers have resorted to unethical measures to obtain wins.

TEXAS COURT OF APPEALS FOR THE FIFTH DISTRICT The Fifth Court repeatedly misapplies state precedents and procedures, requiring review and reversal by the state’s high court. It has developed a reputation for being pro-plaintiff and pro-liability expansion.

NEW JERSEY The New Jersey trial bar has achieved the triple threat – they wield unprecedented power in the state legislature, the Governor has no real interest in civil justice reform, the political balance of the New Jersey Supreme Court has shifted and recent decisions by the state’s intermediate appellate courts indicate a corresponding shift toward increased liability for businesses.


Dishonorable Mentions comprise singularly unsound court decisions, abusive practices, legislation, or other actions that erode the fairness of a state’s civil justice system and are not otherwise detailed in other sections of the report.

Included among this year’s list, the Delaware Supreme Court adopted an expansive view of public nuisance and trespass liability, Illinois counties remain the venue of choice for asbestos claims, and the Minnesota Legislature enacted a liability-expanding agenda. Lastly, the Wisconsin Supreme Court denied review in a controversial product liability judgment.


This year’s report again enthusiastically emphasizes the good news from some of the Judicial Hellholes® states and other jurisdictions across the country. Points of Light are examples of fair and balanced judicial decisions that adhere to the rule of law and positive legislative reforms.

Among the positive developments, the New Hampshire and Delaware Supreme Courts rejected no-injury medical monitoring claims, the New Jersey Court of Appeals discarded improper expert testimony, the Texas Supreme Court rejected manipulation of juries by “anchoring,” and the West Virginia Supreme Court placed reasonable limits on employer liability.

In addition to court actions, nine state legislatures enacted significant, positive civil justice reforms in 2023, including historic reforms in Florida, an Indiana bill that places reasonable limits on third-party litigation financing, comprehensive product liability legislation in Montana, and Kansas legislation that lowers the prejudgment interest rate.


PLAINTIFFS’ LAWYERS PUSH TO DROP GUARDRAILS IN STATE WRONGFUL DEATH ACTS Personal injury lawyers have mounted a nationwide campaign to expand liability under state wrongful death acts. Plaintiffs’ lawyers know that tragic accidents present an opportunity for excessive awards that go far beyond providing reasonable compensation to those who have lost a loved one (and a substantial contingency fee).

LITIGATION TOURISM: JUDICIAL HELLHOLES® ARE OPEN FOR BUSINESS Judges in Judicial Hellholes® have made a habit of swinging open their courtroom doors to out-of-state plaintiffs. Plaintiffs’ lawyers flock to plaintiff-friendly courts seeking to take advantage of low barriers of entry and reputations for nuclear verdicts and expansive rulings. Unfortunately, this year, the United States Supreme Court created significant ambiguity with respect to plaintiffs’ ability to drag out-of-state defendants into Judicial Hellholes® that have little or no connection to the case at hand.

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