Our court system shouldn’t have to deal with suits over the length of sandwiches, amusement park rides that make kids too dizzy, and gassy co-workers. But it does.
Why? Because numerous state laws explicitly encourage litigation when other means of dispute resolution would be quicker and more cost effective; poorly drafted statutes invite endless lawsuits over their interpretation; and antiquated policies limit the ability of our state to improve its legal climate.
Things have gotten so far off track, New Jersey has been named one of the nation’s worst “judicial hellholes.” At this point, there is nowhere to go but up, and the time is right to make changes, both legislatively and via judicial action.
Click here to read our 2017 agenda, which is focused on bringing some common sense reform to our legal system.
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.
Since New Jersey is a state where a lot of asbestos-related work was done, the citizens and businesses of our state have a keen interest in ensuring that the system that has been set up to compensate asbestos victims is not undermined by fraud and abuse. To that end, the New Jersey Civil Justice Institute is supporting Congressional efforts to rein in fraud in the existing system via H.R. 526, the Furthering Asbestos Claim Transparency (FACT) Act of 2015. Continue reading
The court has announced that certain civil cases filed in the Camden and Ocean Vicinages on or after November 30, 2015 will be assigned to a new pilot program designed to speed their resolution. Continue reading
The U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s Institute for Legal Reform has released its latest survey of state legal climates. Unfortunately, New Jersey’s ranking fell to 38 this year, down from 32 in 2012 when the survey was last released. This is cause for anxiety in a state that is struggling to grow its economy since the survey also found that “75 percent of attorneys at U.S. companies say a state’s lawsuit environment is likely to impact important business decisions at their company, including where to locate or expand.” That is an 18 percent increase from eight years ago, and an all-time high.
The judicial system was not designed with business regulation in mind. Nevertheless, over the past few years New Jersey businesses have faced an increasing number of regulatory-based lawsuits, many of them quite frivolous in nature. These lawsuits are not being brought by the government, but by private attorneys empowered to enforce obscure business regulations on the government’s behalf. Continue reading
A number of New Jersey’s state regulatory provisions specify statutory penalties for violations. Having a defined penalty enhances predictability and reduces inconsistent application of the law. When the statutes provide for enforcement actions by individual consumers, the statutory penalty model has the potential to provide the individual with a straightforward means of redress, often without need to even hire an attorney. Attorneys are getting involved though, and it is leading us toward a system where businesses are being regulated one jury at a time. Continue reading
The deadline to file a claim for economic loss resulting from the 2010 Gulf Oil Spill is next Monday – June 8th. The Fort Myers, FL, News-Press made a point to note in its story on the impending deadline that “[b]usinesses in Southwest Florida that haven’t filed a claim could be eligible for economic loss compensation, even though the oil rig explosion and resulting spill never marred area beaches.” Continue reading
A white paper recapping important legal developments in the civil justice movement that occurred in 2014 has been published by the Federalist Society. Part I of the paper focuses on broad trends, Part II provides an overview of new legislation, and Part III highlights court cases from across the country that either strike down previously adopted reforms or adopt novel legal theories of interest to reformers. The paper was authored by NJCJI’s Emily Kelchen.
Right now there are five common sense legal reform bills with bipartisan sponsorship under consideration in the legislature. Several of these bills have been languishing in committee for years without action. Meanwhile, all of us are shouldering the burden of New Jersey’s excessively expensive and inefficient tort liability system through higher prices, lower wages, decreased returns on investments in capital and land, restricted access to health care, and less innovation. It is time for the legislature get serious about legal reform so the citizens and businesses of this state can get some relief. Continue reading