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New State Named Top 'Judicial Hellhole'

'We're number two! We're number two!'

Rarely does that statement raise the roof. But for California lawyers, it's almost something to brag about because California is no longer the No. 1 Judicial Hellhole in the nation.

Florida has snatched that title from the Golden State, which has been a perennial leader in the annual ranking. It's not easy to lead a nation into a litigious hell, but somebody has to do it.

ATR Foundation

American Tort Reform Foundation has published its list of "Judicial Hellholes" each year since 2002. California courts have topped the list repeatedly for "their civil system imbalances" from the beginning.

But the Sunshine State took over in 2017, with the state supreme court ranking fourth by itself for the second year in a row. The ATR also blamed "an aggressive personal injury bar's fraudulent and abusive practices."

"Lawsuit abuse in Florida is an increasingly serious and expensive problem, and it just keeps getting worse," remarked Mark Wilson, president and CEO of the Florida Chamber. "On average, it translates into a $3,400 'tax' for Florida's families each year, due to increased lawsuit abuse costs."

Last year, St. Louis took the prize for its "fast trials, favorable rulings, and big awards." The foundation said that four of the top six product liability verdicts in the country came from the St. Louis.

ATR says lawyers nationwide "engineered" about 2,100 individual claims, "alleging with no scientifically sound evidence that talcum powder causes ovarian cancer." Two thirds of those claims were filed in the Circuit Court for the City of St. Louis because, the tort reformers say, the court has not required the exacting standard for expert testimony in Daubert v. Merrell Dow Pharmaceuticals.

California Disabled

Florida and St. Louis set back California, which reportedly is "the epicenter for lawyers trolling to bring disability access lawsuits against small businesses and class action lawsuits against food and beverage companies."

CalChamber, a business advocacy group, reported that more than one million lawsuits are filed annually in California state courts. Tens of thousands are filed in federal courts there each year. It was ranked the No. 1 Judicial Hellhole in 2012, 2013, and 2015.

In addition to disability, food and beverage cases, the non-profit group says, California businesses have been hammered by lawsuits over chemical warnings, environmental compliance, and asbestos remediation.

Of course, especially for plaintiffs' attorneys, one man's poison is another man's treasure.

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