Today, the American Tort Reform Foundation released their annual ‘Judicial Hellholes’ report. It comes as no surprise that New York City was ranked the third worst ‘hellhole’ in the nation citing its unfair civil courts, following California and Lousiana. Jumping up from number four last year, New York City’s legal climate is only getting worse. The report names biased asbestos courts, hospital closings, conflict of interest and ethics issues among lawmakers, and the antiquated ‘Scaffold Law’ as contributing factors to NYC’s ranking.
The report states that Speaker Sheldon Silver, who happens to work for the law firm Weitz & Luxenberg which specializes in asbestos litigation, is pressuring asbestos litigation judges to consolidate cases, enabling plaintiff’s lawyers to bundle high-verdict cases with lower dollar ones. These consolidated cases produce an average verdict of $29.8 million for the plaintiff, according to the report, compared to $3.2 million for individual cases.
LRANY Executive Director, Tom Stebbins, is quoted on hospital closings – “In New York, 19 hospitals have closed since 2000, leaving several neighborhoods underserved.” Meritless lawsuits are a big reason for the closures, he added, as “astronomical medical liability costs are affecting access to healthcare,” hurting “those who need it most.”
The continued struggle to implement common sense reform to the New-York-only scaffold law is highlighted in the report. Noting insurance companies’ unwillingness to write policies in New York and contractors seeing 500% increases in insurance rates in the last few years despite impeccable safety records.
On a positive note, the report shared that the tort liability and number slip-and-falls cases filed were down from last year.