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Chamber of Commerce Releases Annual State-by-State Lawsuit Climate Report

As reported on the Blog of Legal Times, yesterday, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce's Institute for Legal Reform released the results of its annual survey of the "lawsuit climate" in each of the 50 states. According to the survey, West Virginia has the worst lawsuit climate in the country, while, shocker, Delaware has the best.

West Virginia's poor showing, something it has gotten quite used to over the years, was again largely attributed to its unique status as the only state with no intermediate appellate court, and thus no automatic appeal rights from the decision of a trial court. A bill to establish an intermediate appellate court died in committee earlier this month.

Along with the report, the chamber rolled out a new advertising campaign, entitled "Jobs, Not Lawsuits." The ads, some of which will be shown at movie theaters during previews, feature small business owners talking about how their businesses were ruined by frivolous lawsuits. I caught this one on TV last night:

The survey was administered to "in-house general counsel, senior litigators or attorneys, and other senior executives who are knowledgeable about litigation matters at public and private companies with annual revenues of at least $100 million," and respondents were asked to rank only those states with whose "liability systems" they claimed to be familiar.

Respondents were also asked to cite the reasons they had negative opinions of certain jurisdictions' legal climates, and the overwhelming top response was bias on the part of judges or juries.

The organization formerly known as the Association of Trial Lawyers of America issued its own press release criticizing the survey's methodology, to put it kindly:

The survey relies on the opinions of corporate defense attorneys that profit when they shield their corporations after injuring American consumers, and is bankrolled by companies like AIG, which gave nearly $25 million to the Chamber in the last decade to sit on its board of directors.

All of this "data" will give me lots to think about before I conclusively decide where to open my new Drive-Thru law office.

CORRECTION: Thanks to Sue for pointing out in the comments my inartful draftsmanship of the second paragraph above. West Virginia is most certainly not the only state without an intermediate appellate court. It is often cited as the only state that does not provide losing parties, even criminal defendants, an appeal as of right. Though New Hampshire had sometimes been slapped with that dubious distinction as well, reforms in recent years have resulted in a process whereby the New Hampshire Supreme Court accepts mandatory appeals. Apologies for any confusion.

Posted by Eric Lipman on March 23, 2010 at 11:20 AM | Permalink | Comments (2)

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