Survey: New Jersey's Lawsuit Climate Ranking Hits All-Time Low

Out-of-State Plaintiffs, Mass Tort Cases Swamping New Jersey Courts

September 12, 2017

WASHINGTON, D.C. — In its worst showing ever, New Jersey’s lawsuit climate ranked number 41 out of 50 in a new national survey released today by the U.S. Chamber Institute for Legal Reform (ILR). In 2006, New Jersey ranked number 25 in the same survey.

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

New Jersey’s decline couldn’t come at a worse 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.

“The decline of New Jersey’s legal environment should set off alarm bells with lawmakers and other leaders who care about the state’s competitiveness,” said ILR President Lisa A. Rickard. “In particular, New Jersey acts as a magnet for out-of-state lawsuits, depleting scarce resources and eating into taxpayer dollars.”

As home to many innovative health care manufacturing companies, New Jersey is also home to 19 separate mass torts, with an estimated 93 percent of plaintiffs coming from outside the state. The sheer volume of litigation is drowning New Jersey’s courts. As of June, there was a backlog of over 26,000 civil cases.

New Jersey also has shown hostility to the practice of efficiently settling disputes outside the courtroom through arbitration. The state Supreme Court voided a contract with such an agreement in it, and is out of step with the U.S. Supreme Court on the issue. The state legislature has also advanced a bill that would ban companies that have arbitration agreements in their contracts from doing business with state agencies.

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.

New Jersey ranked in the bottom 10 states in its court rules and the quality of its appeals process.

To promote the survey, the U.S. Chamber Institute for Legal Reform 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.