When it comes to attracting investment, reputation matters, and West Virginia has the worst reputation among the 50 states when it comes to legal climate.
The U.S. Chamber of Commerce's Institute for Legal Reform reported that businesses ranked West Virginia dead last for the fifth consecutive year.
No. 1 for the ninth consecutive year is Delaware.
West Virginia is going to emulate Delaware. Instead of reinventing the wheel, legislators decided to follow the plan of the state with the best wheel. Imagine!
Starting next month, West Virginia will have separate courts to handle business-to-business lawsuits. House Speaker Rick Thompson outlined the plan to the state Chamber at its 2009 Business Summit.
"I visited Delaware and talked to the people in Delaware about how come they have over half of the Fortune 500 companies incorporated there," Thompson said. "They have courts of chancery - a separate court to handle business-to-business disputes."
The new seven-region chancery court system in this state will not address all the issues of which businesses complain.
The biggest problem comes from plaintiff-friendly state law that treats corporations as targets.
The Legislature still needs to address such matters as product liability, personal injury and wrongful death, and consumer class actions. The fairness of courts does matter in attracting investment.
"As our economic downturn has continued, a growing percentage of business leaders have identified a state's lawsuit climate as a significant factor in determining their growth and expansion plans and the jobs that come along with them," said Lisa A. Rickard of the U.S. Chamber Institute for Legal Reform. "That makes the consequences of this survey even more significant to the economic growth of West Virginia."
The creation of business courts is evidence that state leaders are aware of the problem and willing to look for answers in the state with the best reputation.
What do Delaware's other legal policies look like?