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Legal Reforms, Balanced Court Keep West Virginia Off Annual ‘Judicial Hellhole’ Report

Press release received from WV CALA

Charleston, W.Va. – For the third year in a row, West Virginia’s legal system is no longer considered a “Judicial Hellhole” according to legal watchdog group West Virginia Citizens Against Lawsuit Abuse (WV CALA). The American Tort Reform Foundation released the annual “Judicial Hellholes” report and state rankings today.

“We applaud Governor Justice, Senate President Carmichael, Speaker Armstead and the bi-partisan coalition of legislators who have worked to improve our state’s once notorious legal system. Over the last three years, these leaders have enacted much-needed lawsuit reforms to ensure our courts are fair and balanced and as a result, more opportunities are available for West Virginians,” said Roman Stauffer, Executive Director of West Virginia Citizens Against Lawsuit Abuse.

The Hellholes report places West Virginia on a watchlist, but highlights several bipartisan legal reforms passed during the 2017 legislative session that builds on the significant improvements that were enacted in 2015 and 2016 as major factors in improving West Virginia’s national legal reputation.

The report lauds the passage of legislation that aligned pre and post-judgment interest rates more closely to market rates and a reform that will protect innocent sellers of goods from potential liability claims against manufacturers of products.

Stauffer continued, “While we take a moment to acknowledge the huge improvements in fairness to our legal climate that have diminished our position on the American Tort Reform Foundation’s “Judicial Hellholes” list, we must also reflect on the areas where our state continues to need improvement. We will be working to address these areas, like the creation of an intermediate court of appeals, seat belt admissibility, and medical monitoring standards during the upcoming legislative session.”

The report highlights potential reforms that lawmakers might take up during the 2018 Regular Legislative Session to continue improving West Virginia’s legal rankings, including the creation of an intermediate court of appeals, allowing seat belt admissibility, limiting phantom damages, and reforms to the state’s venue guidelines.

In addition to legislative efforts, the Report also highlights the Supreme Court of Appeals of West Virginia next year will consider a case regarding adoption of innovator liability. Under innovator liability, a brand name manufacturer can be held liable for injuries sustained by a generic company’s product. The vast majority of state courts across the country have rejected innovator liability.

The Report hints at new developments in the “Lear Jet Justice” saga, where Supreme Court Justice Robin Davis’ husband purchased a million-dollar airplane in an undisclosed deal from an attorney with business before the state’s highest court. WV CALA has pursued information related to this matter for many years. The legal watchdog group is sorting through thousands of documents, photos, and videos it obtained in response to a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request on this matter, and their findings will be announced soon.

“While our state’s legal climate has dramatically improved in recent years, we cannot lose sight of the fact that much work remains to ensure fairness and balance in our legal system for all West Virginians. Governor Justice and legislators should be proud of the reforms recently enacted, but also be vigilant of the reforms that will bring our state in line with a majority of states across the country,” concluded Stauffer.

West Virginia Citizens Against Lawsuit Abuse is a nonprofit citizen watchdog group with 30,000 members interested in a broad range of civil justice issues.  For more information, visit http://www.WVCALA.org.