WASHINGTON, DC – The U.S. Chamber Institute for Legal Reform (ILR) released a study today showing that Delaware has the best legal climate in the country, and West Virginia has the worst. Those are among the findings of Lawsuit Climate 2007: Ranking the States, an annual assessment of state liability systems conducted by the nonpartisan polling firm Harris Interactive.
“This study shows how a handful of jackpot jurisdictions can drag down the reputation of the entire state, even in those states that have enacted meaningful legal reform measures,” said Tom Donohue, president and CEO of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. “Similarly, a handful of states with bad lawsuit systems can affect the United States business climate, hurting our global competitiveness.”
Delaware has held the top spot for the entire six-year run of the ILR/Harris survey. Other top states include Minnesota, Nebraska, Iowa, and Maine. West Virginia is ranked in last place for the second year in a row, and scores significantly worse in the survey’s raw scores than the next lowest ranked state, Mississippi. Others at the bottom of the list include Louisiana, Alabama, and Illinois.
An analysis of the data over the six years Harris has conducted the survey indicates an overall improvement in state legal climates. In a number of states, this trend correlates with legal reforms enacted over the same period.
“We’ve been telling some of the worst states for six years now that they need to improve their lawsuit system in order to attract new business and grow jobs and, for a number of states, the message appears to be getting through,” Donohue said. “But some states are learning that they also need to make sure their courts correctly apply the law. The bottom line is this: even though we’re seeing some improvements, from the perspective of global competitiveness, we’re only as good as our worst states. So we need to keep working.”
The ILR/Harris Interactive survey of 1,599 senior attorneys is the preeminent standard by which companies, policymakers and the media measure the legal environment of states. Survey respondents assigned each state a letter grade for each of 12 different factors affecting the states’ tort liability system, ranging from the overall treatment of tort and contract litigation to judges’ competence and impartiality.
To highlight the results of the study and the need for comprehensive legal reform, ILR is launching a national advertising campaign, spotlighting the cost the average family pays as a result of lawsuits.
ILR seeks to promote civil justice reform through legislative, political, judicial, and educational activities at the national, state, and local levels. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce is the world’s largest business federation, representing more than 3 million businesses and organizations of every size, sector, and region.