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Judicial Hellholes Report Takes Aim at so-called Frivolous Lawsuits

Posted by Jane Akre
Thursday, December 20, 2007 3:21 PM EST
Category: On The Road, Major Medical, Protecting Your Family, In The Workplace
Tags: Medical Devices, Wrongful Death, Medical Malpractice, FDA and Prescription Drugs, Toxic Substances


The American Tort Reform Foundations names two counties, one in Nevada and one in New Jersey as having corrupt courts and too favorable an outcome for plaintiffs.


  • ATRF full report 

  • ATRF members list

  • 2007 Judicial Hellholes 

    1. South Florida
    2. Rio Grande Valley and Gulf Coast, Texas
    3. Cook County, Illinois
    4. West Virginia
    5. Clark County, Nevada (Las Vegas)
    6. Atlantic County, New Jersey (Atlantic City) 

If you are going to file a lawsuit, New Jersey and Nevada are among the best places for a  favorable ruling. 

That is bad news for defendants in civil cases, often corporations, drug companies, product manufacturers or doctors who are alleged to have injured the public.

So a tort reform organization has added those states to a list it considers “Judicial Hellholes.”

The American Tort Reform Foundation (ATRF) has added courts in Clark County, Nevada and Atlantic County, New Jersey to its sixth annual report issued Tuesday.

A “Hellhole,” according to the group, translates to an inequitable ruling by judges in favor of those who bring the action or plaintiffs. 

Based on a Los Angeles Times investigative series in June, 2006, Clark County, Nevada was chosen after the paper documented a pattern of personal and financial ties resulting in favorable rulings for plaintiffs’ attorneys who made campaign contributions to judges.   

In Atlantic County, many mass tort claims against New Jersey pharmaceutical companies put it on the list as plaintiff-friendly. The group says the courts admit “junk science” into court, do not consider the warning label on a product as sufficient notice to consumers and host lawsuits from around the country such as in the Vioxx litigation against Merck in Atlantic County.

Darren McKinney, Director of Communications for ATRF, tells IB News that we all end up paying more for products and services from the uneven playing field in “Judicial Hellholes.”

“It’s common sense if a school district or a manufacturer is targeted by absurd frivolous lawsuits and judges are cozy with the plaintiff’s counsel, we all end up paying sooner or later.  The taxpayer in the school district’s kid can’t read or consumers end up paying more for the next widget they buy.  It’s more or less common sense,” he says.

While courts allow judges to throw out frivolous lawsuits, ATRF’s McKinney says the judges in “Hellholes” frequently ignore statues that prevent frivolous lawsuits from moving forward.  

“That’s not to say righteous cases shouldn’t go forward. Our belief is bogus cases enrich trial lawyers and nobody gains other than the trial lawyers” McKinney says.

Critics say the study focuses on aberrations, such as plaintiffs’ attorney Dickie Scruggs of Mississippi who is facing federal charges for allegedly bribing a judge,  and not the majority of time when the civil justice system works for the people.

“Basically they are a bunch of people who don’t want to be called into account for what they are doing so they focus on the aberrations,”  Don Briggs, President of the Maine Trial Lawyers Association tells IB News.

Donald L. Jacobs, incoming President of the Oregon Trial Lawyers Association believes the goal of ATRF is pretty clear.

“They want to limit the rights of consumers to be able to sue when they cause harm to them. They don’t like the American justice system because it’s the great leveler, it allows you to be treated at the same level as a corporation,” he says adding that whoever loses a case often feels the playing field is not level. 

ATRF is a nonprofit corporation that promotes a “balanced” civil justice system while protecting the interests of the business community. 

300 member groups fund the nonprofit “from businesses large and small, trade associations, non profits, municipal and counties that are tired of being sued” says McKinney.

The group and its umbrella organization, the American Tort Reform Association, support efforts to limit and reduce tort claims or civil wrongs that can be remedied through the court system. A favorite ‘remedy” has been to limit or cap the amount a plaintiff can be awarded or their attorney can collect in a favorable ruling. 

That has made it more difficult for many consumers to find a lawyer to take an “expensive to litigate” case to court.   

“If you can get rid of trial lawyers people have no way to fight back” says Jacobs.

In fact, a judge in Cook County Illinois recently ruled that the caps on medical malpractice cases for pain and suffering are illegal under the state constitution. 

That climate has Cook County listed as a perennial “Judicial Hellhole” by ATRF.

An InjuryBoard.com

(PM) tobacco company around 1992.

Other businesses soon joined the movement including insurance, asbestos,  medical and chemical industries. The American Tort Reform Association (ATRA) at the helm of the movement.

 2007 Judicial Hellholes 

1. South Florida
2. Rio Grande Valley and Gulf Coast, Texas
3. Cook County, Illinois
4. West Virginia
5. Clark County, Nevada (Las Vegas)
6. Atlantic County, New Jersey (Atlantic City)

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