California No. 1 ‘Judicial Hellhole,’ national lawsuit payments $429B, 2.3 percent GDP
By: Paul Bedard
America is getting crushed by courts that have opened the door to lawsuits by adopting fake law, “junk science,” and even litigation “tourism,” with payments reaching $429 billion, or 2.3 percent of the nation’s gross domestic product, according to a remarkable new report.
California courts top the list from the American Tort Reform Association, and it is expected to get worse as lawyers feast on on a new data privacy law.
“The California motto, ‘Eureka,’ is said to refer to the discovery of gold. Today, plaintiff’s lawyers are California’s prospectors, searching for new theories of liability. Some have struck it rich,” said the report, 2018-2019 Judicial Hellholes.
The state has opened the door to so many easy lawsuits that it is hurting the local economy and jobs. The group cited a study that said, “estimates that excessive tort costs to the California economy result in $11.6 billion in annual direct costs and 197,776 lost jobs when dynamic effects are considered.”
California is followed on the Judicial Hellhole list by Florida, New York City, St. Louis, Louisiana, Philadelphia, and New Jersey.
The report also found rampant expansion in courts of junk science and fake law. And there is a new trend of lawyers shopping for courts around the country where winning a lawsuit is easy. What’s more, legislators are making suits easy.
“The 2018 – 2019 Judicial Hellholes report shines its brightest spotlight on nine jurisdictions, courts or legislatures that have earned reputations as Judicial Hellholes. Some are known for welcoming litigation tourism or as hotbeds for asbestos litigation, and in all of them state leadership seems eager to expand civil liability,” said the report.
“This year’s Judicial Hellholes are teeming with ‘junk science’ used as expert evidence in their courtrooms, lawsuits made up out of thin air when no one has even been injured, and trial lawyers who spend exorbitant amounts of money on advertisements so they can recruit more clients in order to boost their fees in class-action lawsuits,” said Tiger Joyce, president of ATRA.
Key findings from the report, provided to Secrets in advance of its release today:
- Junk science: There is a growing trend of Judicial Hellholes judges and juries relying on unsubstantiated “science” as the basis of massive judgments against corporate defendants.
- Venue Shopping/Litigation Tourism: Loose application of venue rules allows plaintiff’s lawyers to file lawsuits on behalf of out-of-state plaintiffs in Judicial Hellholes to take advantage of plaintiff-friendly courts
- No-Injury Class Action lawsuits: It seems like a straightforward, commonsense principle: Before filing a lawsuit, a person must experience an injury. In recent years, however, plaintiff’s lawyers are chipping away at this core requirement, bringing claims based purely on speculation, risks of future harm, creative theories of financial loss created by hired gun “experts,” and, simply, nonsense.
- Activist attorneys general: Activist state attorneys general are seizing the opportunity to use current “hot-button” issues, like the opioid crisis and climate change, to propel forward their personal careers and generate campaign dollars for future political aspirations. Looking to regulate these industries through the use of litigation, state attorneys general have decided to pursue litigation at the urging of plaintiff lawyers who stand to gain hundreds of millions of dollars if they are successful.
- Trial lawyer advertising: Trial lawyers and aggregators spend large sums on television, digital, and print advertising to recruit new clients for product liability lawsuits. Issue doomsday ads about the dangers of medicine to motivate potential-plaintiffs to join the lawsuits.
The goal of the report is to prompt those on the list to pull in the easy lawsuits so that the costs do not continue to increase.
In citing a U.S. Chamber of Commerce study, the report said:
The cost and compensation paid in the U.S. tort system totaled $429 billion in 2016, accounting for 2.3 percent of the U.S. gross domestic product. The 2018-2019 Judicial Hellholes jurisdictions largely contributed to these costs, and on a local level, they saw job loss, personal income loss, and state revenue loss due to the excessive tort costs in the states. The data clearly demonstrate the need for a more balanced civil justice system.