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New report places onus on St. Louis courts to implement legal climate reforms

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St. Louis has yet again been labeled a “Judicial Hellhole” in a new report from the American Tort Reform Foundation.

While the Missouri Chamber of Commerce and Industry has successfully championed a number of critical legal climate reforms in recent years, American Tort Reform Foundation ranking places the onus on St. Louis courts to fall in line and implement the new laws.

The City of St. Louis Circuit Court’s lax attitude toward forum shopping and out-of-state lawsuits contributed to its No. 7 ranking this year, as well as judges allowing questionable scientific evidence in high-profile cases. 

“Trial lawyers flock to St. Louis to file lawsuits and take advantage of plaintiff-friendly judges,” American Tort Reform Association President Tiger Joyce said. “Out-of-state lawsuits clog the city’s courts, drain court resources, and drive businesses out of the state, leading to job loss.”

The report also cites multiple high-profile lawsuits in St. Louis that are riddled with controversy, including the talc baby powder lawsuit involving 22 plaintiffs, the majority of whom had no connection to Missouri. The plaintiffs claimed their ovarian cancer was caused by exposure to asbestos, allegedly found in Johnson & Johnson’s baby powder. In June 2021, the U.S. Supreme Court announced it would not review the verdict.

St. Louis, along with fellow Judicial Hellhole® California, is also home to tens of thousands of lawsuits against Bayer AG involving Roundup® weedkiller. The lawsuits allege that the active ingredient, glyphosate, causes non-Hodgkin lymphoma. ATRF’s report points out that while St. Louis’s trials are delayed due to settlement talks, the few that proceeded in California relied solely on an unfounded report by the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC). IARC deemed glyphosate a carcinogen, disregarding multiple agencies and organizations, including the U.S. EPA, which said glyphosate is safe to use.

Courts in the Gateway to the West also top the charts for asbestos lawsuit filings, with the fifth-highest number of suits filed. Two of the top four jurisdictions, however, are neighboring counties Madison and St. Clair in Illinois.

The Missouri Chamber has been leading the fight to reform Missouri’s job crushing legal climate. In recent years, the Missouri Chamber has succeeded in passing new laws to:

  • Stop opportunistic COVID-19 lawsuits against employers
  • Ensure punitive damages aren’t being abused to force windfall settlements
  • End venue shopping with venue and joinder reform
  • Bring fairness to Missouri employment law
  • Stop the use of junk evidence in Missouri courts
  • Protect businesses from unfair premises lawsuits

However, there is still more work to do.

The American Tort Reform Foundation report says Missouri continues to lose jobs and revenue thanks to high civil courts costs. The current total impact of these costs results in $3.38 billion in lost economic activity and 20,880 jobs lost.

St. Louis is one of eight Judicial Hellholes® in the 2021-2022 report:

  1. California
  2. New York
  3. The Georgia Supreme Court
  4. The Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas and the Pennsylvania Supreme Court 
  5. Cook, Madison, and St. Clair Counties, Illinois
  6. Louisiana
  7. City of St. Louis
  8. South Carolina’s Asbestos Litigation

Judicial Hellholes® are deemed the most unjust local courts and state civil justice systems in the country. Read the full report at JudicialHellholes.org.

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