WASHINGTON (Legal Newsline) -- The president of Missouri's plaintiffs lawyer organization says an annual report that this year singled out St. Louis as the jurisdiction most in need of legal reform is designed to scare state lawmakers.
According to the American Tort Reform Association,the city of St. Louis reigns as the top “judicial
hellhole” in the nation. ATRA considers the circuit court there as the most unfair to defendants facing civil lawsuits.
Overall, ATRA branded
the Missouri court system a “magnet” for product liability lawsuits and
consumer class actions.
In defending his state’s honor, Missouri
Association of Trial Attorneys President Jay Benson insists his group sees the
report for what he truly believes it is.
“The explicit goal of
the Hellhole Report is to scare state politicians into making anti-consumer
changes in the law in order to make the label go away,” he told Legal Newsline. “The fake ranking is not
based on research into the actual conditions in the courts.”
California courts, New York City’s asbestos court, the Florida courts and New Jersey courts ranked second, third, fourth and fifth
on the list, respectively.
However, St. Louis stood head and
shoulders above the rest, with ATRA President Tiger Joyce noting the “Show
Me Your Lawsuits State’s lax standard for expert testimony is driving
groundless lawsuits and monstrous verdicts.”
Most notable were three massive verdicts against Johnson & Johnson over its products containing talc.
Data shows many of the cases recently adjudicated in the St. Louis court system were filed by parties who don't live in Missouri.
ATRA representatives pointed out that the three major talcum powder cases that linked the product to ovarian cancer verdicts involved plaintiffs from Alabama, South Dakota and California.
In those instances, the plaintiffs walked away with a combined $197 million in verdicts.
Missouri is one of a
minority of states not to have adopted the Daubert standard for expert
testimony, which requires judges to critically review the substance of all expert
testimony before it is allowed to be presented to a jury.
MATA Board of Governors
member Ken E. Barnes insists the group doesn’t have any plans of
advocating for any Daubert implementations anytime soon.
“We don’t need Daubert,”
he said. “We don’t feel the adoption benefits anyone at the time they find themselves
in front of a judge and jury.
"For another thing, we are convinced it’s not a
uniformed standard. We feel it’s a case of creating a problem to look for a
The annual Judicial Hellholes report
compiles the most significant court rulings and legislative actions over the
course of the previous year but only considers civil litigation in ranking courts.