Why New Jersey is ‘on watch’ as a judicial hellhole
The American Tort Reform Association is out with its Top-10 Judicial Hellholes list for 2015, and New Jersey is being put on notice.
The report ranks New Jersey 10th, which means the Garden State is on the Watch List.
Atlantic County, NJ was on the Watch List last year, but the case conditions have improved in that area over the last year.
Marcus Rayner, NJ Civil Justice Institute president, said New Jersey is being singled out this year for overly aggressive consumer protection laws, which are generating a lot of unnecessary and frivolous lawsuits.
"Our consumer protection laws are among the easiest to abuse in the country," Rayner said. "While we want to protect consumers, we don't want to be the home of consumer product litigation in the country."
Even more concerning, New Jersey has the second-most food litigation cases, trailing only California. Rayner said they have seen a 447 percent increase in these types of cases in New Jersey over the last 10 years.
Eventually, the cost of these cases on companies and manufacturers will hit consumers in their pockets.
"If they are spending a lot of money on litigation, paying lawyers and paying awards through court cases, those costs are going to get built into their products," Rayner explained. "Major food manufacturers are going to raise prices if they are getting sued in New Jersey, and the consumer ultimately bears that cost."
New Jersey was home to some of the most head-scratching lawsuits of 2015, from a man suing Applebees for burns he suffered while praying over sizzling fajitas to a class-action suit against Wegman's over whether their bread was "fresh-baked," to a suit against Borgata in Atlantic City for their waitresses being too attractive, causing gambling losses.
The New Jersey Civil Justice Institute has been collecting votes to determine 2015's Most Ludicrous Lawsuit.
"What we think should happen is the law should be fixed a little bit and modified, so that real fraud is what's addressed through the law, not just these gotcha games," Rayner said. "We want people to recover when they've really been injured, but we want the courts to have a lot of latitude to throw out some of these lawsuits."