Delaware ranked best legal climate; West Virginia the worst

Chris Rizo Mar. 23, 2010, 1:00am

WASHINGTON (Legal Newsline)-Delaware continues to have the best legal climate in the United States, while West Virginia still holds the distinction of having the most anti-business courts in the nation, a survey released today indicates.

The Harris Interactive survey found that other states with the most favorable legal environments were North Dakota, Nebraska, Indiana, and Iowa. At the bottom of the list, along with West Virginia, were California, Alabama, Mississippi and Louisiana.

Delaware has been ranked No. 1 in the annual survey for the past seven years, while West Virginia has placed dead last for four years. The Harris survey, taken from October to January, was commissioned by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, which owns Legal Newsline.

Of the 1,482 corporate lawyers and executives surveyed this year, more than two-thirds of respondents said a state's legal environment is a key factor in making strategic business decisions at their company, such as where to expand or locate.

"With one in ten Americans out of work and record-high jobless rates in states like California, states can no longer afford to discourage new business and new jobs as a result of a dysfunctional legal climate," said Lisa Rickard, president of the U.S. Chamber Institute for Legal Reform. "States, particularly those at the bottom of the list, desperately need more jobs, not more lawsuits."

Of survey respondents, 56 percent said they believe the fairness and reasonableness of state court liability systems in America is fair or poor, while 44 percent said they saw the system as excellent or pretty good.

The survey's margin of sampling error is plus or minus 2.5 percentage points. The study was conducted by New York-based Harris Interactive.

Highlighting how lawsuits cost local businesses, the Institute for Legal Reform announced a new national advertising campaign. The effort, dubbed "Jobs, Not Lawsuits," will include two-minute movie trailers on more than 300 movie screens around the country.

One of the spots features the story of Basketball Town, which was forced to close its doors in Sacramento, Calif., because of legal bills related to a lawsuit.

In 2007, the facility was sued by a man who attended a birthday party there with his nephew. The man filed a disability access lawsuit because the area where the birthday party was held was not wheelchair accessible.

"The silver screen is the perfect place to tell these true stories of businesses that have been victimized by an unfair legal system," Rickard said. "We want people to see the real life consequences of these lawsuits."

For the study, Harris Interactive surveyed general counsels and senior attorneys or executives in companies with annual revenues of at least $100 million. Respondents were asked to rank how states treat tort, contract and class action litigation. They were also asked about judges' competence and how fair juries are in the states.

From Legal Newsline: Reach staff reporter Chris Rizo at

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