The Institute for Legal Reform, an organization affiliated with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, has issued its annual report ranking the lawsuit climates of each of the 50 States. This report is an interesting resource for anyone who is interested in class action litigation and forum selection issues. See the following link for the rankings and internal links to the full report:
The report is far from scientific and is based on the subjective responses of in-house lawyers in companies with annual gross revenues of at least $100 million. However, as the executive summary concludes,
perception does become linked with reality. If the states can change the way litigators and others perceive their liability systems, we may find considerable movement in their rankings in the future. Once these perceptions change, the overall business environment may be deemed more hospitable as well.
One very interesting item in the report’s findings is that when respondents were asked to name the single most important issue facing state policymakers in reforming the legal system, speeding up the trial process was the factor most cited, beating out such factors as punitive damages and tort reform issues, eliminating unnecessary lawsuits, fairness and impartiality, and high litigation costs. So, for anyone who believes that all corporate lawyers are interested more in delaying proceedings rather than letting the legal process run its course, the results of this survey provide some food for thought.
On a more predictable note, the report concluded that 41% of the respondents “view the fairness and reasonableness of state court liability systems in America as excellent or pretty good” while 55% viewed the systems as only fair or poor.” In addition, 63% of respondents reported that “the litigation environment in a state is likely to impact important business decisions at their company, such as where to locate or do business, up from 57% in 2007.” Executive Summary (Emphasis in original).
Another key point made by the report is that a state’s overall ranking may be influenced by the existence of one or two plaintiff-friendly magnet jurisdictions within the state. Madison County, Illinois and Jefferson County, Texas, jurisdictions well-known to class action lawyers, are listed as examples.
Not surprisingly, corporate-friendly Delaware ranks as the best state in the survey, while West Virginia, home of the novel “reverse-bifurcation” procedure (see earlier entries here and here) in mass tort litigation, ranks last.