West Virginia's Lawsuit Climate Rank Holds Steady at 45th

While Progress Has Slowed, State is Still Moving in the Right Direction


September 18, 2019

WASHINGTON, D.C.— West Virginia’s lawsuit climate has held steady at 45th in the country in a new national survey released today by the U.S. Chamber Institute for Legal Reform (ILR). The Mountain State moved up five spots from 50 in the last survey in 2017, but its current ranking reflects in part a lack of legislative progress in the last two years, most notably on the creation of an intermediate court of appeals.

The 2019 Lawsuit Climate Survey: Ranking the States, conducted by renowned polling firm The Harris Poll on behalf of the U.S. Chamber Institute for Legal Reform, questioned senior business executives about the fairness and reasonableness of state court systems.

Continued improvement of West Virginia’s lawsuit climate is critical because a record-high 89 percent of survey participants said a state’s lawsuit environment is likely to impact their company’s decisions about where to locate or do business.

“West Virginia’s lawsuit climate remains at the same spot—45—as it did in 2017 when it moved up five spots. But this isn’t the time to feel discouraged. The state is moving in the right direction,” said Harold Kim, chief operating officer of the U.S. Chamber Institute for Legal Reform. “If West Virginia wants to get out of the bottom ten, it needs to create an intermediate court of appeals. Right now, there is only one court that handles all appellate cases, which is a huge problem.”

Last year’s scandal on the state’s high court and the lack of judicial precedent further highlights the importance of having more than one appeals court.

Fortunately, the state legislature understands the importance of improving its lawsuit climate and enacted a series of legal reforms between 2015-2019. Some of the reforms included curbing forum shopping; not allowing out-of-state plaintiffs into West Virginia courts; limiting how much private lawyers make if the state attorney general hires them to represent West Virginia; abolishing the state’s “joint and several liability” doctrine; and regulating small-loan lawsuit lenders.

West Virginia can get back on track in 2020 and continue the progress it’s made over the last few years by, among other things, creating an Intermediate Court of Appeals and reining in misleading lawsuit advertisements. 

The 2019 Lawsuit Climate Survey: Ranking the States is the 12th time The Harris Poll has conducted the survey since 2002 for the U.S. Chamber Institute for Legal Reform. The final results are based on interviews with a national sample of 1,307 in-house general counsel, senior litigators or attorneys, and other senior executives who are knowledgeable about litigation matters at public and private companies with annual revenue of at least $100 million.


About the U.S. Chamber Institute for Legal Reform

ILR seeks to promote legal reform through legislative, political, judicial, and educational activities at the national, state, and local levels.

About the U.S. Chamber of Commerce

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.

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