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New Jersey Not a ‘Judicial Hellhole’ [AUDIO]

New Jersey’s civil courts are no longer among the nation’s most unfair, but a new report from the American Tort Reform Association (ATRA) says additional reforms are needed to prevent the state from becoming a “judicial hellhole.”

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Chris Ryan, Getty Images

“A judicial hellhole is a place where ATRA finds consistently bad judges and judging on civil litigation that would make businesses consider whether or not to remain in that particular venue,” said Marcus Rayner, executive director of the New Jersey Lawsuit Reform Alliance (NJLRA). “We’ve been a hellhole for many years, but this year New York and Philadelphia ‘outshined’ us.”

Atlantic County, however, remains on ATRA’s watch list.

“That’s because there are more pharmaceutical lawsuits filed in Atlantic County right now than anywhere else in the country,” said Rayner. “Because we’re home to a large number of pharmaceutical companies which create tens of thousands of jobs in New Jersey, it’s something we are very concerned about and something we watch very carefully.”

Rayner said New Jersey has been classified as a judicial hellhole in the past, and the fact that the state is not on the current list should be considered a minor improvement. But the frequency of available pharmaceutical jobs in the Garden State — about one out of every 10 — is cause for concern, because pharmaceutical companies are so crucial to the state’s economy.

“It’s still not great when national groups are calling you out for having a venue that has a lot of unnecessary litigation,” said Rayner. “We want to make sure that our civil justice climate is fair to both plaintiffs and defendants, and to make sure that the suits that are brought in our court system are truly legitimate lawsuits. When they’re not, it’s a cost driver that businesses are going to look at when they’re evaluating whether to expand or do business in New Jersey, or pick up and go elsewhere.”

NJLRA wants to make sure the laws are being looked at very carefully.

“We need to look at our laws and how they compare to other states and through the laws, give the courts the tools they need to weed out the frivolous lawsuits from the legitimate lawsuits,” said Rayner. “This year, we saw the lawsuit over the Subway footlong sandwiches that were apparently coming in a half-inch too short; a lawyer sued on behalf of everyone who’s ever bought a footlong Subway sandwich. It was a ridiculous lawsuit, but those are the things we deal with sometimes.”

According to the report, civil courts in New York City, South Florida, Madison and St. Clair counties in Illinois, and throughout California and Louisiana are among the most unfair courts in the United States.

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