The American Tort Reform Association has released its annual “Judicial Hellholes” report, and New Jersey is near the top of its list. ATRA notes that our state’s consumer protection laws are far from mainstream, and our court system is becoming hostile to arbitration agreements, in direct contravention of federal law.
“It’s disappointing, but not surprising that ATRA has identified us as a ‘Hellhole,’” said Marcus Rayner, the president of the New Jersey Civil Justice Institute. “Our courts have issued some opinions that are really out of the mainstream in a few key areas – namely consumer protection and arbitration – and people in the business community, now even at the national level, are taking note.”
“The arbitration-related decisions the report highlights are really concerning. The New Jersey Supreme Court has weakened the right to arbitrate in New Jersey, in direct violation of federal law, despite the fact that arbitration is faster, cheaper, and just as fair as going to court. This is especially true when you consider the alternative to arbitration is often class action litigation, where the biggest beneficiary is the attorney bringing the case,” said Rayner.
“When it comes to consumer protection, we’ve been saying for years that New Jersey needs to enact some common sense reforms to bring our law more into the mainstream. Our main consumer protection laws, the Consumer Fraud Act (CFA) and the Truth-in-Consumer Contract, Warranty and Notice Act (TCCWNA), aren’t giving consumers appreciably better customer experiences, but they are inspiring lots of litigation. For example, CFA litigation increased 447% from 2000 to 2009, but there’s no evidence there was more actual fraud to fight during that period,” said Rayner.
“We need to take concrete steps to right our course and improve our state’s legal climate before it’s too late. We have a list of 11 legal issues New Jersey should tackle if it wants to improve its reputation and economic outlook,” concluded Rayner.