Legal Watchdog Group Encourages Governor, Legislators To Continue Enacting Much-Needed Reforms

Press release received from West Virginia Citizens Against Lawsuit

Charleston, W.Va. – Legal watchdog group West Virginia Citizens Against Lawsuit (WV CALA) is urging Governor Jim Justice and legislators to continue enacting much-needed lawsuit reforms during the 2018 Regular Session of the West Virginia Legislature, which began today.

“Governor Justice, Senate President Mitch Carmichael, and Speaker Tim Armstead have done a tremendous job of improving our state’s once notorious legal system. The bi-partisan reforms they spearheaded have brought our state’s civil justice system in line with a majority of states across the country. West Virginia is no longer on the American Tort Reform Foundation’s “Judicial Hellhole,” however the state remains on a watch list. There is more work to be done, and we’re confident that legislators will continue to look at areas where changes are needed to ensure a fair and balanced legal system for all West Virginians,” said Roman Stauffer, Executive Director of WV CALA.

Since 2015, the West Virginia Legislature has enacted significant legal reforms, including implementing comparative fault, bringing transparency to the process of filing claims with asbestos trusts, protecting pharmacies and nursing homes from meritless lawsuits, capping punitive damages, and protecting innocent sellers of goods.

Stauffer continued, “Our priorities this year will be the creation of an intermediate court of appeals, enacting seat belt admissibility, reforming medical monitoring standards, and clarifying that small business owners who form a limited liability company (LLC) are personally protected from abusive lawsuits.”

The creation of an intermediate court of appeals will again top WV CALA’s priority list because West Virginia is the only state in the country that doesn’t provide a full appeal of right for either civil or criminal litigants. It is one of nine states that do not have at least one intermediate appellate court.

The legal watchdog group will make another push for two much-needed reforms that gained traction during last year’s legislative session, including seat belt admissibility and reforms to the state’s medical monitoring standards.

Seat belt admissibility refers to a judge’s determination about whether seatbelt usage information will be admissible in automobile accident litigation, which legal reform advocates believe should always be presented to a jury.

West Virginia’s medical monitoring laws remain an outlier by permitting cash awards for medical monitoring claims without a physical injury. Reform advocates believe that proof of an injury must be present to make a medical monitoring claim and that all medical monitoring awards should be placed in a medical trust for medical expenses, not awarded for cash benefits to be spent on a vacation or new all terrain vehicle (ATV).

A new priority for WV CALA grassroots members is encouraging policymakers to correct a Supreme Court of Appeals of West Virginia decision authored by Justice Robin Davis (Joseph Kubican v. The Tavern, LLC, d/b/a Bubba’s Bar and Grill, No. 12-0507, 2013) to clarify that members of a limited liability company (LLC) are not personally liable for claims against the LLC unless they personally cause harm to a litigant. This “piercing the corporate veil” reform will ensure that the original intent of the West Virginia Uniform Limited Liability Act is protected.

“West Virginians should be proud of the lawsuit reforms that have been enacted in recent years. We encourage legislators to build on their successes, which are helping turn West Virginia around, and pass additional reforms. We anticipate that 2018 will be another great year for legal reform advocates at the Legislature,” 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.