WASHINGTON, D.C. — In its worst showing ever, Georgia’s lawsuit climate ranked number 40 out of 50 in a new national survey recently released by the U.S. Chamber Institute for Legal Reform (ILR). Just five years ago, Georgia ranked number 24 in the same survey.
2017 Lawsuit Climate Survey: Ranking the States surveyed senior business executives on their experiences with state lawsuit environments.
Georgia’s fall couldn’t come at a worse time. An all-time high 85 percent of survey participants said that a state’s lawsuit environment is likely to impact their company’s decisions about where to locate or expand.
“The rapid decline of Georgia’s lawsuit climate should serve as a red flag for lawmakers and other state officials,” said ILR President Lisa A. Rickard. “Sustaining the state’s economic growth will only grow more challenging with a legal environment in free fall.”
Georgia’s rank dropped in particular because of its court rules and questionable rulings by its judges, including allowing plaintiffs to “shop” for favorable judges and juries within the state by allowing them to withdraw and re-file a lawsuit elsewhere if they become aware that the court plans to throw it out. In addition, the Georgia Supreme Court issued a unanimous ruling that broadly expands the duty to preserve evidence for parties that may be involved in a lawsuit—no matter how remote that possibility—thus driving up costs for businesses and other parties.
The state legislature opened the door even wider for abusive lawsuits by enacting a law stating that employers could be liable for the criminal acts of their employees. The legislature also has advanced bills that would expand lawsuits against insurers, as well as allow plaintiffs’ lawyers to go on “fishing expeditions” for documents during litigation.
Harris Poll, a global polling firm, conducted the 2017 Lawsuit Climate Survey through more than 1,300 telephone and online interviews between March 31 and June 26, 2017. Participants were senior business lawyers and executives in companies with annual revenues of at least $100 million. The survey asked participants to rank the fairness of state lawsuit environments across 10 categories including their laws, courts, judges, and juries. Georgia fell in every category, and received particularly low ratings for the quality of its appeals process.
To promote the survey, ILR is conducting a national public awareness campaign. The national and key state online and broadcast ads can be seen here.
In tandem with the survey, ILR released 101 Ways to Improve State Legal Systems, listing key legal reforms that states can adopt to improve their lawsuit climates.
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 the interests of more than 3 million businesses of all sizes, sectors, and regions, as well as state and local chambers and industry associations.