Texas Gulf Coast courts tough place for defendants, 'Hellhole' report claims

Marilyn Tennissen Dec. 14, 2010, 7:42am

Although tort reforms have kept Texas from making the list of the top "judicial hellholes," several of the state's courts are still under the eye of American Tort Reform Association.

ATRA named the Texas Gulf Coast to the "Watch List" in its latest Judicial Hellholes Report released Tuesday.

The annual report identifies "Judicial Hellholes" across the country that have a disproportionately harmful impact on civil litigation.

"Traditionally, Judicial Hellholes have been considered places where civil judges systematically apply laws and court procedures in an unfair and unbalanced manner, generally against defendants in civil lawsuits," explained ATRA general counsel Victor Schwartz. "The jurisdictions we name as Judicial Hellholes each year are not the only unfair courts in the nation, but they are among the most unfair, based on our survey of litigants and considerable independent research."

The top Judicial Hellholes on the report are civil courts in Philadelphia; California's Los Angeles and Humboldt counties; West Virginia; South Florida; Cook County, Ill.; and Clark County, Nevada.

The Gulf Coast appears on the report's "Watch List" because while "the Texas legislature has enacted significant reforms that helped improve the litigation climate throughout the state, significant concerns about Gulf Coast, courts remain."

The report calls the Gulf Coast of Texas "one of the toughest places in America for corporate defendants to receive a fair trial."

"Personal injury lawyers continue to bank on the record-breaking jury awards that are commonplace along the Texas Gulf Coast," said Michelle Martin, executive director with Citizens Against Lawsuit Abuse-Houston. "Lawsuit reforms have helped improve our state's reputation for jackpot justice, but we still have areas of our state that are cause for concern."

"Lawsuit reform is clearly working for Texas and but threats to our justice system linger," Martin said. "With the legislative session around the corner, we hope lawmakers are prepared to fight for these reforms that have expanded access to health care, created new jobs, and helped the Texas economy."

Martin said that during the last legislative session in 2009, personal injury lawyers pushed no less than 900 proposals that would have rolled back reforms or created new ways to sue.

"We expect more of same in January," Martin said. "Civil justice reforms can only work for Texas if our lawmakers protect them."

A full copy of the report can be found at www.judicialhellholes.org.

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