Litigation: Supporter of tort reform says most corporate attorneys mistrust the courts (Web)

Litigation:  In a March 8 report, a major backer of tort reform report says that most corporate attorneys still mistrust the nation’s courts.
 
On the heels of the passage of a class action reform bill that the U.S. Chamber of Commerce terms a landmark tort reform victory, the business group’s Institute for Legal Reform released its annual report ranking state liability systems that shows deep corporate mistrust of the nation’s litigation system. 
 
The survey—which of more than 1,400 senior corporate attorneys conducted between November 2004 and February 2005--found that 60% of the survey group gives “an overall ranking of fair or poor to the state court liability system in America.”  That number is worse than the 56% who last year said ranked the litigation system as fair or poor. 
 
The institute is a seven-year-old affiliate of the chamber that pushes for tort reform legislation.  The chamber strongly backed the Class Action Fairness Act, which puts new limits on bringing class action cases in state courts.  President Bush signed the bill into law last month.
 
Delaware, according to the new 2005 State Liability Systems Ranking Study, is the most business-friendly court environment, while Mississippi is worst.   Rounding out the top five were Nebraska, North Dakota, Virginia and Iowa.
 
The respondents were asked to grade their states on an A-to-F scale in each of the following areas:  tort and contract litigation; treatment of class actions; punitive damages;  timeliness of summary judgment and dismissals; discovery; scientific and technical evidence; judges’ impartiality and competence; and juries’ predictability and fairness.
 
The grades are combined to set an overall state ranking, in an attempt to account for occasionally big differences between corporate attorneys’ perceptions within states for different counties.  Still, the study says some states may get downgraded because of “the negative reputation of one of their counties or jurisdictions.
 
There was no mention in the study of alternative dispute resolution processes.
 
The report’s concludes discussing perceptions.  It says: 
 
One thing important to note is that these rankings and results are based on the perceptions of these senior corporate attorneys.  It is also important to realize that the perceptions may be based on certain cities or counties within the state. But, as we have noted in the past, perception does become linked with reality.  If the states can change the way litigators and others perceive their liability systems to be, we may find considerable movement in the rankings in the future. And once these perceptions change, the overall business environment may be deemed more hospitable as well.

The complete report is available at www.instituteforlegalreform.org.