Enacting significant legislative changes is like running a marathon—it takes hard work and dedication. Thanks to years of groundwork by legal reform-minded legislators, West Virginia moved up from 50 to 45 in ILR’s 2017 Lawsuit Climate Survey. In 2019, the state’s Lawsuit Climate Survey ranking remained steady at 45 when tort reform progress slowed, especially in addressing the urgent need for an intermediate appellate court.
Now is the time to stay focused. West Virginia can get back on track to shed its reputation as having one of the worst lawsuit climates. If the Mountain State wants to get out of the bottom ten states in 2021, it should work to modernize its court system by creating an Intermediate Court of Appeals (ICA).
West Virginia is one of the few states without an ICA, meaning all appellate level cases are heard by a single court: the West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals. Having only one court handle the thousands of appeals it gets each year means a backlog of questionable rulings from the state’s 31 trial courts goes unreviewed. Companies that face constant excessive litigation are left to deal with an unwelcoming business and lawsuit climate.
Senate Bill 275 would help change that. The bill would create an ICA in 2021 with two districts: A Northern District and a Southern District. It would set up West Virginia’s court system to be like most other state and federal courts: Cases are filed in a district court, and decisions appealed to the ICA, followed by review at the discretion of the state Supreme Court.
ILR once again commends the Senate for passing SB 275 and urges the House of Delegates to support the bill to passage.