The American Tort Reform Association announced today its “Judicial Hellholes” of 2007. The full ATRA report is available here.

South Florida, parts of Texas, Chicago, West Virginia, Las Vegas, and Atlantic City make the “hellhole” list, while Madison and St. Clair Counties, in downstate Illinois, drop to a “watch” list.

Three of ATRA’s hellhole designations were due, at least in part, to treatment of pharmaceutical actions. These are:

2. RIO GRANDE VALLEY AND GULF COAST,TEXAS The Rio Grande Valley and Gulf Coast of Texas have made their way into each and every Judicial Hellholes report since the project’s inception. It is recognized as one of the toughest places in America for corporate defendants to receive a fair trial. This year, there was … a judge’s “pocket veto” of an appeal of a $32 million award against a pharmaceutical company in a case where a juror knew and had taken loans from the plaintiff….. Despite strong statewide legislative reforms enacted in 2004, this area stubbornly refuses to shed its Judicial Hellholes reputation.

 

4. WEST VIRGINIA West Virginia courts have earned a reputation for anti-business rulings,massive lawsuits and close relationships between the personal injury bar,state attorney general and the judiciary. It is almost unique among the states in providing civil defendants with no assurance that they will receive appellate review, and, as one of the cases highlighted in this year’s report shows,this can leave a business hit with a multimillion-dollar verdict with nowhere to turn. The West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals,when it does act, has cast a shadow on the reputation of the state’s judicial system. This year, it rejected a rule that places responsibility of warning patients of the risks of most drugs solely with their doctors, not pharmaceutical companies who do not know the patient’s medical history….
Despite its Hellholes reputation, however, it is important to note that there are many judges that adhere to the law in West Virginia….

 

6. ATLANTIC COUNTY, NEW JERSEY Personal injury lawyers seem to have gained a monopoly in Atlantic County, a new addition to the Judicial Hellholes report. New Jersey is known for particularly plaintiff-friendly laws, admitting junk science in court and hosting lawsuits from all over the country against their state’s own economic driver, the pharmaceutical industry. All these elements were on display in the Vioxx litigation in Atlantic County. There is also evidence that litigation fairness is deteriorating throughout the Garden State, leading to the formation of the New Jersey Lawsuit Reform Alliance in October 2007.

Read ’em and weep.

The difficulty, of course, is that, until all jurisdictions are even-handed, the judicial system as a whole is skewed. If every court in the country were fair except Nowheresville, Alaska, then our clients would disproportionately be sued in Nowheresville.

Plaintiffs get to choose the forum of the lawsuit, so a single hole pops the entire dike.

Oh, well. Maybe there’s a decent restaurant in Nowheresville.