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Georgia again tops ‘Judicial Hellhole’ list

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(The Center Square) — Georgia may have fallen short in its bid for a third straight college football championship this year, but it sits atop another, more dubious ranking.

The “Peach State” maintained its position as the No. 1 “Judicial Hellhole” in the country, a new report from the American Tort Reform Foundation reveals. The Supreme Court of Pennsylvania and the Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas tied with Georgia at the top of the list.

Georgia remained atop the rankings “thanks to another year of high nuclear verdicts and liability-expanding decisions by the Georgia Supreme Court,” the report said. “Neither the judiciary nor the legislative branches are willing to take responsibility for the state’s poor civil justice system.”

According to the report, Georgia saw 39 “nuclear verdicts” in personal injury and wrongful death cases between Jan. 1, 2018, and April 10, 2023, including 12 in 2022. Citing a report by The Perryman Group, the tort reform group said Peach State residents pay a $1,213.80 annual “tort tax” and costs 123,900 jobs each year.

“The legal climate in Georgia continues to be a major concern and cost to small businesses,” National Federation of Independent Business State Director Hunter Loggins said in a statement. “The ATRA report highlights many of those concerns and challenges. We are encouraged that this is a priority of Governor [Brian] Kemp and look forward to working with the Governor and legislative leaders to address this important issue in the upcoming legislative session.

“The cost of defending itself against even one frivolous claim can be enough to put a small business out of business,” Loggins added. “Our members look forward to working with their state senators and representatives to find a legislative solution when the General Assembly gavels into session next month.”

The report also concerns “litigation tourism,” where plaintiffs file lawsuits in “plaintiff-friendly courts.” The group said the U.S. Supreme Court could have put the kibosh on such tactics in handing down a decision in a case against Atlanta-based Norfolk Southern Railway in Pennsylvania.

It also noted that in 2021, the Georgia Supreme Court ruled that a similar “expansive jurisdiction over out-of-state defendants” was constitutional.

“There is real concern that this decision has opened the door to plaintiffs’ lawyers flocking to Georgia to take advantage of the courts’ reputation for nuclear verdicts, pro-plaintiff rulings, and liability-expanding decisions,” according to the report.

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