by Betsy Earls
Associated Oregon Industries
Oregon Largest Business Advocate
A state’s litigation environment is an increasingly important factor in key business decisions, according to a survey conducted for the U.S. Chamber Institute for Legal Reform (ILR) by Harris Interactive. The survey was based on interviews with a nationally representative sample of 1,125 in-house general counsel; senior litigators; and other senior executives who are knowledgeable about litigation matters at public and private companies with annual revenues of at least $100 million. Respondents were asked to give states a grade (A through F) in several areas: overall treatment of tort and contract litigation; having and enforcing meaningful venue requirements; treatment of class action and mass consolidation suits; damages; timeliness of summary judgment or dismissal; discovery; scientific and technical evidence; judges’ impartiality; judges’ competence; and juries’ fairness.
Seventy percent of the survey respondents say that a state’s legal climate is likely to impact important business decisions at their companies, such as where to locate or expand their businesses. That is up 13% from just five years ago.
Fifty-one percent of senior attorneys view the fairness and reasonableness of state court liability systems in America as only fair or poor. However, the percentage who said that liability systems were excellent or very good reached 49%, up from 44% in 2010. This continues a general upward trend in the overall average score – expressed numerically on a scale of 1 to 100 – of state liability systems since the survey began in 2002. From 2002 to 2005, the overall score averaged 52, whereas from 2007 to 2012, the score averaged 59. The score increased three points from 2011 to 2012.
The 2012 State Liability Systems Ranking Study found that Oregon’s overall ranking has slipped from 13th place in 2002 to 28th place in 2012. Oregon’s specific scores are as follows:
Overall treatment of tort and contract litigation: 30th
Having and enforcing meaningful venue requirements: 20th
Treatment of class action and mass consolidation suits: 35th
Timeliness of summary judgment or dismissal: 28th
Scientific and technical evidence: 28th
Judges’ impartiality: 27th
Judges’ competence: 24th
Juries’ fairness: 29th
Survey respondents said that the most important issues that policymakers should focus on to improve the litigation environment in their states include limits on discovery; elimination of unnecessary lawsuits; fairness and impartiality; speeding up the trial process; and tort reform.