Lawyers and corporate executives say West Virginia is the state with the worst lawsuit climate for businesses, according to a new report from the U.S. Chamber Institute for Legal Reform.
The institute surveyed a collection of 1,482 in-house general counsel, litigators, other lawyers and executives about which states had the most fair tort liability systems. It found that Delaware was considered the friendliest jurisdiction, followed in order by North Dakota, Nebraska, Indiana and Iowa.
West Virginia was accompanied at the bottom of the list by Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and California. While Illinois barely missed the bottom five, coming in at number 45 out of 50, it did earn its own dubious honor: Cook County, home to the city of Chicago, was voted the city or county with the least reasonable litigation environment, earning nods from 14 percent of survey participants. It was trailed by Los Angeles, which was mentioned by 12 percent of respondents.
While the District of Columbia was not included in the survey, Virginia fared relatively well, placing sixth. Maryland fell near the middle of the pack, at number 20.
This is the institute's eighth survey of state torts systems since 2002. According to its Web site, the organization was founded in 1998 by the U.S. Chamber of Congress to "address the country's litigation explosion."
The current survey found that a state's litigation environment is becoming increasingly important to companies when deciding where to do business. This year, 67 percent of respondents said the issue was likely to impact key business decisions at their company such as where to locate, up from 63 percent in 2008.
The states near the bottom of the institute's survey are "getting worse," U.S. Chamber of Commerce President Thomas Donohue said in a videotaped statement.
"The bottom line is simple," Donohue said. "If you have two thirds of the companies, who are being advised by their in house lawyers, who have made it very, very clear to us that they consider this issue fundamental in deciding where to make their investments, those states have a real problem."
Perceptions of state tort systems on the whole were mixed, with 42 percent of those surveyed calling them "pretty good." Another 47 percent ranked them "only fair." Just 2 percent called them "excellent," while 9 percent deemed them "poor."
Survey participants said "tort reform issues in general" and caps on awards were the most important issues for state policy makers to consider. Each were noted by 9 percent of respondents. Timelines for decisions were cited by another 8 percent, while 7 percent mentioned both eliminating unnecessary lawsuits and putting limits on discovery.
This article first appeared on The BLT: The Blog of Legal Times.