"Judicial Hellholes" is an annual list published by the American Tort Reform Association (ATRA) outlining areas of the country that ATRA considers to favor plaintiffs in personal injury lawsuits. ATRA is a coalition of medical professional associations and various industry groups -- such as from the chemical, tobacco and drug industries -- promoting changes to U.S legislation to limit corporate and professional liability for damage caused by their products and services.
"Tort reform" is a term propagated by companies -- such as those in the tobacco and asbestos industries -- vulnerable to legal actions seeking damages for the impacts of their products. Proponents use the term to refer to legislative measures designed to limit the ability and potential damages available to individuals who take legal actions against companies.
Courts that Make the List
The courts highlighted by ATRA as "favoring" plaintiffs are (in early 2012):
- Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
- West Virginia
- South Florida
- Madison and St. Clair Counties, Illinois
- New York City and Albany, New York
- Clark County, Nevada
- McLean County, Illinois
Madison County, Illinois
In Madison County, Illinois, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, also a "tort reform" proponent, created a weekly newspaper called the Madison County Record. According to the Washington Post, "an Illinois weekly newspaper launched in September  that bills itself as the county's legal journal, reports on one subject: the state courts in southern Illinois." (Disambiguation: This is not to be confused with the Arkansas newspaper also called the Madison County Record.)
The Washington Post 's Birnbuam pointed to a "recent front page [that] carried an assortment of stories about lawsuits against businesses. In one, a woman sought $15,000 in damages for breaking her nose at a haunted house. In another, a woman sued a restaurant for $50,000 after she hurt her teeth on a chicken breast. ... Nowhere was it reported that the U.S. Chamber of Commerce created the Record as a weapon in its multimillion-dollar campaign against lawyers who file those kinds of suits," Birnbaum wrote.
For more, see the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.
- American Tort Reform Foundation, Judicial Hellholes® 2007", 2007. (Pdf)
- American Tort Reform Association, Judicial Hellholes 2011, organizational report, December 15, 2011, accessed January 18, 2012
- Jeffrey H. Birnbaum, "Advocacy Groups Blur Media Lines. Some Push Agendas By Producing Movies, Owning Newspapers," Washington Post, December 6, 2004.
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