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NYC’s becoming an even nastier ‘judicial hellhole’

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NYC’s becoming an even nastier ‘judicial hellhole’ 1

Even though the pandemic delayed much litigation for most of 2020, New York City managed to qualify as one of the nation’s top “judicial hellholes” for the third year in a row, and actually got worse. 

The American Tort Reform Foundation’s annual Judicial Hellhole report ranks the jur­isdictions in the country with the most rampant civil-justice abuse. This year the city moved up to No. 2 after sitting at No. 3 for two years. Only the Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas and the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania earned a worse ranking; the state of California took the third spot. 

Driving the city down was its spike in “nuclear verdicts,” when a plaintiff’s lawyer cozens the jury into awarding an outrageous amount for pain and suffering, far beyond any reasonable compensation.

Attorneys use tactics like misrepresenting numbers from previous verdicts, painting the award as a punishment instead of compensation and “anchoring” the amount by suggesting a wildly sky-high number so that the jury still settles on an excessive amount. 

Just a few such awards mean more out­rages ahead, as each case sets a dangerous precedent. In 2018, a jury awarded a woman who’d been hit by a shopping cart that teens threw off an overpass a full $45 million — to be paid by the mall and the security company it had hired.

“Normal” payouts are reaching as high as $90 million. That not only pushes up insurance costs for everyone, it also slams taxpayers, since government agencies are big targets for ambulance-chasers. Notably, the MTA’s yearly personal-injury payouts more than tripled in just two years, from $43 million in 2017 to $150 million in 2019.

And that is just one of the problems that the ATRF report presents. New York City also, for example, has the most lawsuits under the Americans with Disabilities Act against Web sites, many filed by a handful of firms looking for a quick “gotcha.”

The report also flags the state Scaffold Law, which holds contractors completely liable for all “gravity-related injuries” to construction workers, even if the accident is the result of negligence on the part of the victim. (You can sue even if the accident’s cause was that you were blind drunk on the job.)

Sadly, the special interests that keep New York so lawsuit-friendly also have huge political power. Count it as one more way the politicians keep pushing people to flee the city and the state.

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