A new report released by the American Tort Reform Foundation details why Jefferson County, Texas – the only Texas jurisdiction to receive the “Judicial Hellhole” designation for three years in a row – has been a magnet for speculative litigation.
More personal injury lawsuits are filed in Jefferson County, per capita, than any other large county in Texas, according to the American Tort Reform Association (ATRA), which announced the publication of the report.
“Jefferson County’s history for welcoming lawsuit abuse in its courtrooms has attracted speculative litigation to this jurisdiction which has become known as one of the most plaintiff-friendly forums in the United States,” said Sherman Joyce, president of ATRA. “Litigation tourists, guided by their personal injury lawyer travel agents, file their cases in Judicial Hellholes like Jefferson County because they know they can circumvent the law and receive a favorable award or precedent, or both.”
The report, “The Making of a Judicial Hellhole: A Case Study of Jefferson County, Texas,” focuses on the types of cases filed in the courts, and why the county remains a favored forum for personal injury lawyers. In all three editions of the Judicial Hellholes reports, Jefferson County consistently has ranked among the worst jurisdictions in the United States – a reputation that has harmful consequences for its residents.
“For years, Beaumont has not been an attractive area for businesses to set up shop, partly because of its plaintiff-friendly courts,” said Joyce. “The median household income in Jefferson County lags behind the statewide average, and the unemployment rate in the Beaumont-Port Arthur area is higher than the statewide rate.”
Report highlights also include:
–An analysis on the abuses associated with asbestos litigation;
–A discussion on a $1 billion award upheld by a judge in a diet-drug litigation case – a blatant deviation from established Texas law; and
–An examination of the impact legal reforms have had on the courts of Jefferson County.
The study focuses on the civil filing data in Texas’ Office of Court Administration, civil filing data in the Jefferson County District Clerk’s Civil Index, and every civil lawsuit filed in Jefferson County between Sept. 1, 2002, and Aug. 31, 2003.
“The results cited in this report are compelling. Despite significant legal reforms passed by the Texas Legislature over the past couple of years, personal injury lawyers continue to circumvent the laws before judges that should be applying the law fairly to all litigants. Until judges adhere to the law, Jefferson County will continue to be a Judicial Hellhole,” concluded Joyce.
For a copy of the report, visit www.atra.org.
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