California ranked second in the latest listing of "Judicial Hellholes," an annual report from the American Tort Reform Association (ATRA) that tracks real-time disadvantages to defendants by civil court judges across the U.S.
“If most lawmakers in Sacramento [which] can be likened to the Symbionese Liberation Army of the Berkeley-radical 1970s, then most California voters can be likened to the Stockholm syndrome-suffering heiress Patty Hearst, coming to love their captors even as hundreds of new laws – many of them designed specifically to expand civil liability on business and property owners – are enacted each year,” the report said.
The latest report put Florida at the top, citing the recent high court decision North Broward Hospital District v. Kalitan. ATRA said the the ruling, issued by a Florida Supreme Court panel comprised of Justices Ricky Polston, Charles Canady and Alan Lawson, exemplified the ''usual liability-expanding majority'' of the court.
“The [Florida Supreme Court panel] again saw fit to disregard the will of Sunshine State voters as expressed through their duly elected representatives in the legislature and governor’s office,” according to the report, which cites the case opinion that openly argued government’s chore to choose whether a medical malpractice catastrophe exists and if Florida statutes should be corrected accordingly.
Other areas listed as Judicial Hellholes are St. Louis, New York and California (tied) Philadelphia, New Jersey, Madison and Cook Counties in Illinois and Louisiana. This this year's Watch List includes Baltimore, Georgia, Newport News, Virginia, the Oregon Supreme Court, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit and West Virginia.
“Beyond the Judicial Hellholes, this report calls attention to seven additional jurisdictions that bear watching due to their histories of abusive litigation or troubling developments," the report said. "Watch List jurisdictions fall on the cusp – they may drop into the Hellholes abyss or rise to the promise of equal justice under law.”
This year’s Dishonorable Mentions, which “generally comprise singularly unsound court decisions, abusive practices, legislation or other actions that erode the fairness of a state’s civil justice system,” according to the report include "Connecticut Supreme Court Blesses $42 Million for Tick Bite," "Minnesota Governor’s Veto Triple-Play" and "Wisconsin Appeals Court Strikes Down Medical Liability Limit."
There is also a Points of Light section in the 78-page report, that “typically comprise noteworthy actions taken by judges, lawmakers or other government officials to stem abuses of the civil justice system.” The report includes the injustice by an attorney general, unfair decisions in the U.S. Fifth and Seventh Circuits,and 13 states enacting 17 positive justice reforms.
Finally, the Closer Look sections zeros in on "Three Supreme Court Decisions Should Slow Litigation Tourism," "Opioid Litigation" and "Trial Lawyers Influence Grows at the America Law Institute."
In addition to the report, the ATRA regularly provides updates to major tort issues in courts on its website, www.JudicialHellholes.org, where the full report is also available.