Congratulations, Alabama

By December 22, 2007Briefly Legal

The American Tort Reform Association’s annual report, “Judicial Hellholes,” reacts to developments in the civil justice system and policymaking to add and subtract locations from its listing of anti-business, anti-justice locations.

In Alabama, when judges acted to impose some measure of rationality to jury awards, ATRA noticed — but more importantly, so did business. (The case involved correcting an outrageous $12 billion finding against Exxon-Mobil in a breach of contract suit.) And if the Legislature follows suit with reasonable tort reform, more notice will follow.

The Huntsville Times does a good job of highlighting the positive legal development and what they mean for the state in this editorial, “Out of the hellhole.”

Few people expected the initial award to be upheld. Even so, the fact that juries, egged on by skillful trial lawyers, would return such verdicts gave outside industries and businesses reason to be concerned about moving here. Now, at least, they know the entire judicial system isn’t completely out of control. But it should be noted that just because Alabama has dropped out of the infamous hellhole category for the moment, it could find itself back next year or the year after. It depends on what happens in the courts.

And the Legislature.

If we don’t want this particular blemish to return, the Legislature must find more ways to rein in runaway juries while protecting the people’s right to seek redress. It’s a difficult balancing act, but in the end we’ll all benefit from it. How many plaintiffs, after all, ever collect the millions and billions of dollars Alabama juries have been prone to impose?

Good question.

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