CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- The American Tort Reform Association has again placed West Virginia at the number three spot in its annual list of "judicial hellholes."
The group lists Philadelphia in the top (worst) spot, and California as number two. Other states/regions that made the list are Southern Florida, Madison and St. Clair Counties in Illinois, New York City and Albany, Clark County in Nevada and McLean County in Illinois.
The list is put out by a Washington, D.C.-based organization dedicated to tort and liability reform. West Virginia has appeared on the group's "hellhole" list every year since the report's inception in 2002.
Richie Heath, Executive Director of West Virginia Citizens Against Lawsuit Abuse, said the ranking reflects that the state has failed to fix problems in the legal system, but also that some improvements are being seen.
"The Judicial Hellholes report continues to acknowledge that West Virginia is taking positive steps," Heath said. "However, we have failed to fix the core problem that continue to plague our state's legal system, and with many other states passing significant legal reforms over the last year, West Virginia may fall even further behind."
The report praises the state Supreme Court for several "well-reasoned" decisions, including its recent decision to uphold key portions of the state's medical liability reforms. But the report also cites problems that it says still exist in the civil justice system "such as its lack of full appellate review, liability rules that are out of the mainstream, and excessive awards."
The tort reform association also criticizes Attorney General Darrell McGraw's effort to withhold settlement funds from state agencies.The association recommends the state fix medical monitoring, mass litigation and deliberate intent laws and laws which encourage the filing of out-of-state lawsuits in West Virginia courts.