Legal Reforms Improve West Virginia’s Ranking On Annual ‘Judicial Hellholes’ Report

Charleston, W.Va. – For the second year in a row, West Virginia 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.

“Thanks to the strong bi-partisan leadership of Governor Tomblin, Senate President Cole, House Speaker Armstead and the coalition of legislators who acted boldly to address a number of issues with our state’s legal system over the last two years, the Mountain State continues to show improvement in the “Judicial Hellholes” report,” said Roman Stauffer, Executive Director of WV CALA.

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

The report lauds the passage of legislation that brought a much-needed good-government transparent process used by the state attorney general to hire private attorneys on a contingency fee basis to represent the state. The report also recognizes the adoption of the learned intermediary doctrine and the wrongful conduct rule.

“We applaud Attorney General Patrick Morrisey for his leadership in working with legislators to pass and enact a much-needed outside counsel policy. Attorney General Morrissey has proven to be a transparency leader at the state capitol. He put an end to former Attorney General Darrell McGraw’s ‘good ole boy system’ of awarding lucrative outside counsel contracts to campaign donors,” observed Stauffer.

The report also applauds the non-partisan election of conservative Beth Walker to the Supreme Court of Appeals of West Virginia. Walker defeated incumbent Justice Brent Benjamin, personal injury lawyer Bill Wooton, former Attorney General Darrell McGraw, and Clay County lawyer Wayne King.

The report highlights potential reforms that lawmakers could take up during the 2017 Regular Legislative Session to continue improving West Virginia’s legal rankings. They including the creation of an intermediate court of appeals, allowing seat belt admissibility, limiting phantom damages, enacting innocent seller protections, reforming judgment interest and addressing the state’s medical monitoring claims process.

“Our grassroots members applaud and thank those who supported the recent legal reforms that became law over the last two years. In that time, our state has gone from ranking near the top of the “Judicial Hellholes” report to nearly being removed from the list entirely. With additional reforms, our state may very well be eliminated entirely from future “Judicial Hellholes” reports,” concluded Stauffer.

Download the “Judicial Hellholes” report.