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Group says New York City is nation’s 4th worst ‘Judicial Hellhole’

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(The Center Square) — New York City has retained its dubious ranking as one of the nation’s top “judicial hellholes,” according to a new report.

The American Tort Reform Foundation ranked the Big Apple 4th on its annual list, citing lawsuit abuse under the Americans with Disabilities Act, predatory lawsuit loans, “nuclear” verdicts, abusive food and beverage litigation, and the state’s outdated scaffold law.

The report says NYC’s nearly 140-year-old scaffold law, which holds private businesses liable for worker injuries from falls, is a driving factor behind many of the nuclear verdicts for which New York City’s become a hotspot — with damage awards exceeding $10 million.

Those nuclear verdicts have also been exacerbated by a state law that allows plaintiffs’ lawyers to request that a jury award a specific dollar amount for any element of damages, the foundation said.

“Plaintiffs’ lawyers use this law to engage in a tactic known as ‘anchoring’ in which they place an extremely high figure into the jurors’ minds to start as a base dollar amount for a pain and suffering award, which, unlike medical expenses or lost wages, lacks a means of objective measurement,” the report’s authors wrote.

Likewise, New York City is a “haven for lawsuit abuse,” and law firms invest millions in ads to recruit more clients, according to the report. In 2022, spending on nearly 757,000 local legal services TV ads across New York state media markets exceeded $55 million, with around 60% of the spending concentrated in New York City, the report noted.

Tom Stebbins, executive director of the Lawsuit Reform Alliance of New York, said small businesses, doctors, hospitals and local governments are “drowning in expensive litigation.”

“The state leads the nation in abusive, lawyer driven lawsuits filed under the Americans With Disabilities Act,” he said. “Our courts are the top jurisdiction for ridiculous class action lawsuits that consistently benefit lawyers instead of consumers.”

The foundation suggested that the Big Apple will retain its ranking in future reports based on proposals considered in Albany, including a bill pending Gov. Kathy Hochul’s approval to expand the state’s wrongful death laws.

“The New York Legislature has turned a blind eye to the deteriorating civil justice climate, and rather looks for ways to expand liability by pursuing a pro-plaintiff agenda,” the report’s authors wrote. “It continues to consider legislation that, if enacted, will further entrench New York City on the Judicial Hellholes report for years to come.”

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