Latest 'judicial hellhole' report cites Rio Grande Valley, Gulf Coast of Texas
With the Dec. 18 release of its annual Judicial Hellholes® report, the American Tort Reform Foundation again collectively cited the Rio Grande Valley and Gulf Coast of Texas among the nation's most unfair civil court jurisdictions.
"Though Texas enacted important tort reforms in 2003 and 2004, vastly improving its civil justice climate," began ATRF president Sherman "Tiger" Joyce, "personal injury lawyers are still managing to live high off the hog in Jefferson, Brazoria, Cameron, Hidalgo, Nueces, Starr and Zapata counties.
"Last year's 'Hellholes' report noted a new wave of intellectual property litigation in these jurisdictions" Joyce continued. "This year, personal injury lawsuits in connection to the dredging of Texas ports comprise a troublesome rising tide."
American Tort Reform Association general counsel Victor Schwartz added that Texas's neighbor, New Mexico, has increasingly been home to inequitable civil trials and procedures, too, qualifying it for the report's "Watch List" this year.
"Several northern counties in New Mexico, and possibly Chaves County, may be developing a reputation as one big Judicial Hellhole," Schwartz reported. "For example, in June, an Albuquerque court awarded the state's highest personal injury verdict ever - $54 million, including $50 million in punitive damages - against a nursing home in connection with the death of a 78-year-old patient.
"And, in a classic case of forum shopping this year," Schwartz noted, "a family from Socorro County traveled 200 miles to bring a wrongful death action against Nissan in plaintiff-friendly San Miguel County. They did not live there, the car accident did not occur there and Nissan did not have a registered agent there. But none of that seemed to bother trial judge. He let the case proceed."
Turning to the report's "Dishonorable Mentions" section, Joyce pointed to another Texas neighbor.
"Oklahoma went through a rollercoaster year that included the state's supreme court striking down important litigation reforms enacted in 2003. The legislature eagerly passed new reforms, but a governor who was long-supportive of such measures ultimately vetoed them. As a result, Oklahomans have squandered some of the progress made in recent years and additional reforms have lost momentum," Joyce said.
Full text of the Judicial Hellholes® 2007 report is posted at http://www.atra.org. The report's various rankings are summarized below.