WASHINGTON, DC – The U.S. Chamber Institute for Legal Reform (ILR) today announced that New Jersey’s legal climate has dropped nine spots to number 35 in Lawsuit Climate 2008: Ranking the States, an annual assessment of state liability systems conducted by Harris Interactive, a leading national market research firm.
“New Jersey’s legal system is headed in the wrong direction,” said Tom Donohue, president and CEO of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, “largely as a result of the plaintiff-friendly bias in a handful of trial courts, particularly in lawsuits aimed at pharmaceutical manufacturers.”
For example, one court certified a nationwide consumer fraud class action exposing a drug maker to a claim for $20 billion dollars in damages, in which the trial judge allowed the plaintiffs to proceed on a theory that would not have required any proof that any individual class member would have behaved any differently had it known more about the drug. The New Jersey Supreme Court eventually overturned the judge’s decision.
New Jersey has also gained a reputation for allowing “junk science” to be admitted into the courtroom, dropping from a rank 13th to 35th in the handling of technical and scientific evidence.
“The best thing a state can do to attract business is to have a fair legal system,” said Donohue. “Attitudes about New Jersey’s legal climate will only improve once the courts in these individual jurisdictions stop torturing the laws to reach pre-conceived results.”
ILR is launching a national advertising campaign highlighting the results of the study and the need for comprehensive legal reform.
Harris asked 957 senior attorneys to evaluate up to five states in which they were “very” or “somewhat familiar” with that state’s litigation environment. 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, and Harris computed an overall score for each state based on these evaluations.
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.