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Study: West Virginia Has Nation’s Worse Lawsuit Climate
A study conducted by the U.S. Chamber Institute for Legal Reform rates West Virginia as having the nation’s worst lawsuit climate in the United States. It is followed in the bottom five by Louisiana (49th), Mississippi (48th), Alabama (47th) and California (46th).
The Lawsuit Climate 2010: Ranking the States survey measures how a state’s legal climate affects businesses. Survey respondents were made up of general counsels and senior attorneys or executives in companies with annual revenues of at least $100 million.
According to the report, West Virginia was rated last in each of ten elements used to determine a state’s overall position.
“As West Virginia’s leaders work to recover from the current economic downturn, they need to pursue policies that help create jobs by removing the burdens of abusive litigation against local businesses. The bottom line is that West Virginia needs more jobs, not more lawsuits,” said Lisa Rickard, president of the U.S. Chamber Institute for Legal Reform.
Among the reasons cited for West Virginia’s lowly ranking is the inability of litigants in the state to appeal adverse court decisions. The report notes that the lack of an automatic appeal in the state was specifically cited by Chesapeake Energy for its 2009 decision to cancel plans to build a $35 million regional headquarters in Charleston.
Two-thirds, or 67 percent of the 1,482 corporate lawyers contacted for the survey, said a state’s lawsuit environment is likely to impact important business decisions at their company, such as where to locate or expand. That number is up 10 percent from three years ago.
The study does give West Virginia credit for recent changes to its system, including a measure that authorizes the state supreme court to establish a business court system in more populous areas of the state.
The Lawsuit Climate 2010: Ranking the States survey was conducted by Harris Interactive by telephone and online from October 2009 to January 2010.