PCI Continues Fight for Balance in Civil Justice System

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ATRA "Judicial Hellhole" Report exposes biased jurisdictions.

This report is very useful in drawing attention to specific legal venues that have developed a reputation for litigation abuse

The American Tort Reform Association's (ATRA) new "Judicial Hellholes" report for 2006 highlights the significant progress that is being made since the report was first issued five years ago however, there is still a critical need to bring greater balance to the nation's civil justice system, according to the Property Casualty Insurers Association of America (PCI).

ATRA released its Judicial Hellholes 2006 report today which highlights the worst locations for judicial abuse in the country. This year the entire state of West Virginia has the dubious distinction of being the worst Judicial Hellhole in the nation. South Florida, with its pro-plaintiff reputation is second. The Rio Grande Valley and Texas Gulf Coast combine as the third-worst Hellhole. As in 2005, Illinois has three of the six Hellholes: Cook, Madison and St. Clair counties, although the report notes some significant and hopeful signs coming out of Madison County this year.

"This report is very useful in drawing attention to specific legal venues that have developed a reputation for litigation abuse," said David Golden, director of commercial lines for PCI. "As a result of the spotlight that ATRA has focused on problem areas, advocates for a balanced civil justice system have been able to achieve important reforms in states such as Mississippi and Texas."

In 2006, important reforms were enacted in Florida that adopted proportional liability, restricted venue for out-of-state plaintiffs, and placed a $50 million limit on appeal bonds. Kansas, South Carolina and Tennessee enacted asbestos and/or silica medical criteria legislation in 2006 to prioritize claimants who are truly sick. These states join Ohio, Florida, Georgia and Texas in establishing statutory control over rampant asbestos and silica litigation, a subject highlighted in previous ATRA Judicial Hellhole reports.

"Civil justice reform advocates are committed to balancing the legal system for all litigants and this will continue during the 2007 legislative sessions," said Golden. "The American people understand the need for balance in our courts and PCI intends to stay in the forefront of the effort to enact meaningful reforms that are essential for economic growth and a healthy, robust insurance market."

PCI supports the effective reforms outlined in the report that can restore balance to the civil justice system, including:

1. Stopping litigation tourism through venue reform;

2. Enforcing consequences for bringing frivolous lawsuits;

3. Stemming abusive use of consumer protection laws;

4. Ensuring that pain and suffering awards serve a compensatory purpose;

5. Strengthening rules to ensure sound science in the courtroom;

6. Addressing medical liability issues to ensure access to health care; and

7. Prioritizing truly sick asbestos and silica claimants

PCI is composed of more than 1,000 member companies, representing the broadest cross-section of insurers of any national trade association. PCI members write over $194 billion in annual premium, 40.1 percent of the nation's property/casualty insurance. Member companies write 51.3 percent of the U.S. automobile insurance market, 39 percent of the homeowners market, 32.1 percent of the commercial property and liability market, and 38.7 percent of the private workers compensation market.

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