A new survey evaluating the fairness and reasonableness of state liability systems has East Texas as the worst local jurisdiction in the U.S.

On Sept. 10 the U.S. Chamber Institute for Legal Reform, which owns the Record, released its 2015 Lawsuit Climate Survey– a survey of business professionals conducted by Harris Poll to explore how fair and reasonable each state’s tort liability systems are perceived to be by U.S. businesses.

The state of Delaware came in at No. 1, while West Virginia finished last. Texas barely escaped the bottom ten, earning a ranking of 40th in the nation.

The 2012 survey had Texas ranked 36th, meaning the Lone Star State dropped four spots. The dip did not escape the attention of Texans Against Lawsuit Abuse.

“This survey, and our drop in the ranking, is a clear reminder that when it comes to a legal reform, our work in Texas is never done and our successes in the Legislature cannot be taken for granted,” said Jennifer Harris, TALA spokesperson. “Beyond the State Capitol, judges and juries are the lifeblood of our civil justice system and their actions, and perceived level of competency, impact our litigation climate on a daily basis."  

When survey participants were asked to select specific cities or counties that have the least fair and reasonable litigation environments, 26 percent identified East Texas as the worst local jurisdiction.

The Eastern District of Texas attracts a staggering volume of patent infringement lawsuits each year and East Texas has become home to many companies, deemed patent trolls by tort reform groups, that exist only to acquire patent rights for the purpose of suing tech companies, such as Apple, Samsung and Sony.

In the survey’s rankings, East Texas was followed by Chicago (Cook County) at 20 percent, Los Angeles at 16 percent, Madison County (Illinois) 16 percent and New Orleans (Orleans Parish) 15 percent.

The survey found also found Texas is the:

- 46th worst state when it comes to judge impartiality;

- 36th in overall treatment of tort and contract litigation;

- 39th in having and enforcing meaningful venue requirements;

- 33rd in treatment of class action suits and mass consolidation suits;

- 37th in damages;

- 34th in timeliness of summary judgment or dismissal;

- 37th in discovery;

- 37th in scientific and technical evidence;

- 42nd in judge competence; and

- 42nd in jury fairness.

Survey participants were comprised of a national sample of 1,203 in-house general counsel, senior litigators or attorneys, and other senior executives at companies with at least $100 million in annual revenues.

Overall, the survey found that 75 percent of attorneys at U.S. companies say a state’s lawsuit environment is likely to impact important business decisions at their company, including where to locate or expand.

“More business leaders than ever have identified a state’s lawsuit climate as a significant factor in determining their growth and expansion plans,” said Lisa A. Rickard, president of ILR, in a written statement. “States ought to take notice that a good lawsuit climate is vital to their continued job growth.”

And the single most important improvement that can be made to improve the litigation environment, 32 percent of participants say eliminating unnecessary lawsuits.

The survey was conducted between March 9 and June 24 and can be found online at: www.instituteforlegalreform.com/states.

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