Judicial Hellholes: Georgia Is Hot

In this FRONT piece, Joe Calve, Editor and Co-Founder of CCBJ discusses The 2022-2023 Judicial Hellholes® Report from the American Tort Reform Association.

Thanks to a $1.7 billion verdict against Ford Motor Co., along with several other “nuclear verdicts” – verdicts topping $10 million – Georgia has grabbed the top slot in the annual list of “judicial hellholes” from the American Tort Reform Association. Debra Cassens Weiss, a senior writer for the ABA Journal, tells the tale. The verdict, which is being appealed, arose from a wrongful death suit filed by the family of a couple killed in a rollover wreck blamed in the suit on allegedly defective truck roofs. Weiss quotes a press release in which the president of the American Tort Reform Foundation blasts the verdict as “riddled with ethically questionable events and severely biased court orders.” One key reason cited for the high verdicts in Georgia, according to Weiss, is a statute that allows plaintiffs lawyers to use “anchoring” tactics, which drive up jury awards. In addition to Georgia, the foundation named seven other judicial hellholes: Pennsylvania Supreme Court and the Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas; California; New York; Cook County, Illinois; South Carolina (asbestos litigation); Louisiana; and St. Louis. (See chart on this page.)

#1: GEORGIA Nuclear verdicts are bogging down business and third-party litigation financing is playing an increasing role in litigation. The Georgia Supreme Court issued several liability expanding decisions in 2022 and placed the onus for reform on the Georgia legislature.

The Pennsylvania Supreme Court continues to promote forum shopping and eliminated an important rule governing the filing of medical cases. The Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas, with most of the state’s nuclear verdicts, is a preferred court for mass tort litigation.

Baseless Prop-65 lawsuits thrive in courts and the volume of litigation skyrockets. Small businesses are weighed down by frivolous Private Attorney General Act, Americans with Disability Act, and lemon law suits.

California and New York battle it out for the most “no-injury” consumer class action lawsuits and the most claims under the ADA, and New York is seeing a surge in nuclear verdicts driven by “anchoring.”

Cook County, is a magnet for “no-injury” lawsuits stemming from the state’s Biometric Information Privacy Act and consumer class actions, with an overwhelming percent of nuclear verdicts in the Cook County trial court.

The consolidated docket for the state’s asbestos litigation has a reputation for extraordinary pro-plaintiff rulings, many driven by a Texas law firm that has helped make the state a hot spot for asbestos claims.

Coastal litigation continues to drain state resources and judicial misconduct runs rampant across a state where COVID-19 litigation not permitted elsewhere thrives.

Junk science is permitted in St. Louis courts, which have a history of nuclear verdicts, and courts allow “phantom damages,” which renders St. Louis a favorite jurisdiction for asbestos litigation.

Check out The 2022-2023 Judicial Hellholes® report from the American Tort Reform Association.

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