New Lawsuit Climate Survey Shows Tort Reform Working in West Virginia

State's Lawsuit Climate Ranking Improves Five Places

September 12, 2017

WASHINGTON, D.C. — In its best showing ever, West Virginia’s lawsuit climate ranking improved by five places in 2017, from 50th to 45th in a new national survey released today by the U.S. Chamber Institute for Legal Reform (ILR). Before today’s release, West Virginia had never ranked higher than 49th in the 10 previous surveys spanning 15 years.

This improvement reflects a multi-year commitment to lawsuit reform that continued in 2017 under strong legislative leadership and support from Gov. Jim Justice.

2017 Lawsuit Climate Survey: Ranking the States surveyed senior business executives on their experiences with state lawsuit environments.

West Virginia’s improvement comes at a critical time. An all-time high 85 percent of those surveyed said that a state’s lawsuit environment is likely to impact their company’s decisions about where to locate or expand.

“West Virginia’s hard work to improve its lawsuit climate is paying off, and state lawmakers and Governor Justice can take lots of credit,” said ILR President Lisa A. Rickard. “In the last three years, they’ve passed some of the most meaningful tort reforms in the state’s history.”

Recently, West Virginia enacted laws to prevent fraud in asbestos lawsuits, to ensure that parties found at fault in lawsuits pay their fair share, and to put public “sunshine” on how the attorney general hires and pays outside lawyers to represent the state.

West Virginia’s Supreme Court also is getting fairer. For example, in April the Court unanimously agreed to preserve contract rights by directing disputes to be handled outside of court through arbitration rather than a lawsuit.

“The Mountain State is now proving that with the right leadership, positive change will happen—and 2018 offers the opportunity for even more,” said Rickard.

Harris Poll, a global polling firm, conducted the 2017 Lawsuit Climate Survey through more than 1,300 telephone and online interviews between March 31 and June 26, 2017. Participants were senior business lawyers and executives in companies with annual revenues of at least $100 million. The survey asked participants to rank the fairness of state lawsuit environments across 10 categories including their laws, courts, judges, and juries.

In the last survey, released in 2015, West Virginia ranked among the five worst states in all 10 categories. This year, it ranked in the bottom five states in only one.

To promote the survey, ILR is conducting a national public awareness campaign. The national and key state online and broadcast ads can be seen here.

In tandem with the survey, ILR today released 101 Ways to Improve State Legal Systems, listing key legal reforms that states can adopt to improve their lawsuit climates.

ILR seeks to promote civil justice reform through legislative, political, judicial, and educational activities at the national, state, and local levels.

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce is the world’s largest business federation representing the interests of more than 3 million businesses of all sizes, sectors, and regions, as well as state and local chambers and industry associations.