St. Louis named #5 Judicial Hellhole

A new report highlights the worst local courts and states for abuses of the civil justice system, with the Top 10 Judicial Hellholes filled with widespread civil lawsuits, legislative loopholes that create more ways for lawyers to sue, and judges who allow junk science into evidence in trials.

“Once again, ATRA has listed St. Louis as the fifth worst Judicial Hellhole,” said Ray McCarty, president and CEO of Associated Industries of Missouri. “We have made progress, moving down from our #1 ranking just a couple of years ago, but we obviously have much more reform necessary, including fixing the broken punitive damages process, establishing a statute of repose for manufactured products, and many more great ideas that the plaintiff’s attorney lobbyists have been killing for years. It’s time for Missouri legislators to continue their progress and make Missouri courts fairer for all parties,” he said.

Plaintiffs’ lawyers flock to St. Louis City. In FY 2018, they filed 13,542 civil cases in the City of St. Louis Circuit Court—in a city with an estimated population of 308,626. By comparison, the Circuit Court for St. Louis County had 5,366 cases filed in it that year (about 40% of St. Louis City’s volume) in a county with 996,726 people. St. Charles County only had 1,335 cases filed (10% of the cases filed) in a county that is 33% larger than St. Louis City. In fact, more than half of all civil cases pending in Missouri are in the City of St. Louis Circuit Court.

Excessive tort litigation in the greater St. Louis area results in $909.1 million in direct costs annually and a loss of 15,512 jobs. The excess costs result in a “tort tax” of $571.95 per person. Governor Michael Parson (R) and key legislative leaders have taken some important steps to reform the system, but more remains to be done.

The 2019-2020 Judicial Hellholes report of the American Tort Reform Foundation shines a light on the year’s abuses in the civil justice system and in state legislative bodies, lists areas on the cusp of becoming a Judicial Hellhole and identifies several troubling legal trends that are emerging.

“Justice is abused in these Judicial Hellholes, with abuses in the civil justice system hurting businesses, consumers and the nation,” said Tiger Joyce, ATRF president. “Litigation abuse drives up insurance costs and drives away jobs, and the money businesses spend fighting often-frivolous lawsuits takes dollars away from research and development of new consumer products.”

The 2019-2020 top Judicial Hellholes are:

  1. Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas
  2. California
  3. New York City
  4. Louisiana
  5. St. Louis
  6. Georgia
  7. Illinois’ Cook, Madison and St. Clair Counties
  8. Oklahoma
  9. Minnesota Supreme Court and the Twin Cities
  10. New Jersey Legislature

“Our hope is that this report on Judicial Hellholes will be a loud wake-up call for government officials to stop the madness,” Joyce said. “Stop creating more ways for lawyers to sue businesses, stop wasting money in court, and stop contributing to job loss.”

Excessive tort costs result in hundreds of thousands of jobs lost and billions of dollars lost in personal income each year.

The 2019-2020 Judicial Hellholes report of the American Tort Reform Foundation also identifies several worrisome areas emerging in civil litigation including an increase in local governments filing local lawsuits to address national public policy issues, legislation seeking to ban arbitration and new data privacy liability concerns.

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