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Tort Reformers Dig at 'Judicial Hellhole'

New York City has a few nicknames.

"The Big Apple." "The Big City." "Hong Kong on the Hudson." And then there's "Judicial Hellhole."

That last one is courtesy of the American Tort Reform Association and businesses mired in asbestos litigation. ATRA, joining an amicus brief in a New York appellate division, has a problem with a recent order affecting asbestos cases there.

Asbestos Litigation

The association, along with business and policy groups, says the order will "frustrate settlements, create longer and more complex trials, spawn appeals that will further delay recoveries." Sounds like "mass hysteria" on the order of a giant Stay Puft Marshmallow Man in NYC.

Speculation and ghosts aside, here's the problem: they want the court to defer punitive damage awards; the case management order says, no more.

"The reasons for deferring punitive damages in asbestos cases remain sound, not only to preserve the amount of company resources that can compensate deserving victims, but to accelerate trials, speed recovery, and avoid lengthy appeals," said Cory Andrews, senior litigation counsel for the Washington Legal Foundation.

So what the hellhole?

"Judicial Hellhole"

Tom Stebbins, executive director of the Lawsuit Reform Alliance, said the New York City Abestos Litigation court earned its reputation.

"The court has been dubbed a 'judicial hellhole' and the recent case management order only made things worse," he told Legal Newsline.

ATRA bestowed the name on the court in 2014 for being "unfair" to defendants in asbestos cases. The case management order was stayed, but now it is back.

While the order was in abeyance, New York Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver was indicted on allegations that he traded state grants for attorney referrals to asbestos plaintiffs. His conviction was overturned by the U.S. Second Circuit Court of Appeals.

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