Earlier this month the American Tort Reform Association released the 2017-2018 Judicial Hellholes Report, which shines a light on jurisdictions that have cultivated a reputation as unfair and unbalanced in civil legal proceedings. Whether much of an area’s legal climate is stymied by litigation tourism or asbestos lawsuits, there is one detriment each has in common – courts determined to expand liability. Spoiler alert: North Carolina did not make the list. This time.
This is one ranking we’re happy to see left North Carolina off of the list. We’ve made great strides to improve the state’s legal climate, from instituting key civil justice reforms to enacting laws like House Bill 467: Agriculture and Forestry Nuisance Remedies to stop frivolous lawsuits. However, our efforts cannot stop there. Since 2013, New York City’s Asbestos Litigation court has made its way onto the Judicial Hellholes list for its “continuingly corrupt and brazenly plaintiff-favoring ways.” Other areas the list has on the hook for their handling of asbestos litigation and bankruptcy trust claims are Philadelphia and Louisiana, with Baltimore and Newport News making the watch list. This alone is an important reminder that North Carolina has yet to establish transparency in bankruptcy trust claims, giving personal injury attorneys the power to take advantage of our legal system. It’s not hard to deduce that without legislation like Senate Bill 470: Personal Injury Bankruptcy Trust Claims becoming law, North Carolina could easily find its way onto this list in the future. Let alone, more rulings like that of the North Carolina Supreme Court in Wilkes v. City of Greenville, which would have decimated the hard-fought workers’ compensation reforms of 2011 and expanded liability.
We cannot take our foot off of the gas. It is for that reason, the NC Chamber Legal Institute is gearing up for more fights in the courts in order to ensure job creators have more predictability and transparency in legal affairs. As we saw in Wilkes v. City of Greenville, personal injury attorneys are turning to the courts to expand liability after failing to win at the legislature. This fight will be just one of the upcoming hurdles facing our state’s legal climate but our Legal Institute is ready for the challenge.
Gary J. Salamido
Vice President, Government Affairs
North Carolina Chamber