New U.S. Chamber Studies Examine Surge in Lawsuits by Cities and Counties

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March 07, 2019

Trial Lawyers Expand Business Model of Suing on Behalf of States to the Local Level


March 7, 2019

Washington, D.C. — The U.S. Chamber Institute for Legal Reform (ILR) today released a pair of studies examining the surge in lawsuits by cities and counties enlisted by trial lawyers to sue over alleged misconduct by businesses.

Mitigating Municipality Litigation: Scope and Solutions details how lawsuits on issues ranging from opioid abuse, climate change, data privacy, to mortgage lending have proliferated to the local level. The paper outlines the history of trial lawyers pitching states to represent them in litigation on a contingency fee basis, and their expansion of the practice to cities and counties—with the number of related opioid lawsuits alone numbering in the thousands. 

“Trial lawyers want to cash in on municipal lawsuits by promising cities and counties easy money, filing cookie-cutter claims, and forcing settlements,” said ILR Chief Operating Officer Harold Kim. “The feeding frenzy of municipal lawsuits not only stands in the way of justice by making it harder to resolve cases, but also undermines states’ authority.” 

Mitigating Municipality Litigation examines consequences of the spread of these lawsuits, including limiting the potential for global settlements, undermining the power of state attorneys general and state legislatures, and reducing the funds available to compensate injured individuals.

The paper outlines a range of reforms available to states concerned about the increase in municipal litigation, including modifying state law to preclude or discourage cities and counties from serving as plaintiffs in particular kinds of lawsuits.

Today, ILR also released Waking the Litigation Monster: The Misuse of Public Nuisance, a paper detailing how trial lawyers increasingly bring lawsuits over large-scale public policy challenges, mainly through attempts to expand the public nuisance doctrine. The study concludes that this not only usurps the role of the political branches of government, but it also seeks to side step the limits that courts traditionally have placed on public nuisance lawsuits.

About the U.S. Chamber Institute for Legal Reform

The U.S. Chamber Institute for Legal Reform seeks to promote civil justice reform through legislative, political, judicial, and educational activities at the global, national, state, and local levels.

About the U.S. Chamber of Commerce

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.