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Thursday, April 26, 2007

Dueling State Rankings

So you've got the Chamber of Commerce's Institute for Legal Reform rankings of states' litigation climates on the one hand.

And you've got AAJ's response, which includes the "ten worst states to get sick or injured in" (and I know dangling prepositions are mostly considered acceptable now, but it still grates to have that in a title).

As the AAJ points out, the ILR's survey isn't anything more than a survey of in-house counsel and litigators (defense side) ranking various states on criteria that the ILR considers relevant.  Actually, the ILR makes that clear too:

The 2007 State Liability Systems Ranking Study was conducted for the U.S. Chamber Institute for Legal Reform among a national sample of in-house general counsel or other senior corporate litigators to explore how reasonable and balanced the tort liability system is perceived to be by U.S. business.

The AAJ response is a bit more emphatic:

“This latest propaganda is a made-up survey primarily of corporate lawyers earning millions of dollars defending their CEOs from being held accountable,” said Jon Haber, chief executive officer of the American Association for Justice. “The Chamber will stop at nothing to destroy the civil justice system in America, which protects the rights of consumers, employees, and shareholders against corporate wrongdoing and negligence.”

The AAJ's "ten states" list is of ten states with liability modifications that the AAJ finds particularly problematic (many of which I'm not fond of either).  It is seemingly focused on restrictions on state (as opposed to private) liability, creating a disjunction with the focus on corporate wrongdoing in the pull quote, but also including various generally applicable damage caps, non-litigation systems for recovery, and so on.

Neither of the reports are particularly helpful in a bigger picture sense, though the rankings do seem to get a fair amount of press every year.  (Hey, that sounds familiar.)  I suppose it is reasonable for legislators or others to want to know what defense lawyers think about the various states, so long as it's not interpreted as being definitive about, well, anything.  Similarly, the AAJ's list could bring extra attention to various statutory provisions that many would see as unfair, but it's far from a comprehensive look at what states are most unfair to injured parties.  In other words, both are pitched as being bigger than they are.

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