Georgia topped the list of the American Tort Reform Foundation’s annual “Judicial Hellholes” report.
The Peach State edged out the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania, the Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas and the states of California and New York to top the list.
“The litigation climate in Georgia has deteriorated for years and in 2022 it reached fever pitch,” the group said in its report, which highlighted eight jurisdictions. It also said Georgia lawmakers should act in the wake of several liability-expanding decisions the Georgia Supreme Court issued in 2022, including a March 2022 ruling the group said puts manufacturers at risk if a third party misuses a product during a crime and it causes harm.
“Georgia replaced California on the top of this year’s list thanks in no small part to a massive $1.7 billion nuclear verdict that can charitably be called concerning,” it added. “Georgia state courts issue some of the country’s largest nuclear verdicts in state and superior courts, as personal injury lawyers cash in on plaintiff-friendly judges that benefit greatly from trial lawyer campaign contributions.”
The group cited a finding from The Perryman Group that every Georgia resident pays an annual $1,111.28 “tort tax.”
National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB) State Director Hunter Loggins said the organization hopes state lawmakers will consider the American Tort Reform Foundation’s assessment seriously when they reconvene next month. The group called on lawmakers to pass tort reform legislation during the upcoming session.
“Georgia’s legal climate has steadily worsened over the years, and that’s bad news for small businesses,” Loggins said in a statement. “Small businesses don’t have the resources to defend themselves against whimsical nuisance claims and bogus accusations.
“A small business may have to spend tens of thousands of dollars to defend itself in court,” Loggins added. “Inflation has driven up the cost of everything from shipping to shopping bags, so even if the judge throws the case out of court, just one frivolous lawsuit can be enough to put a small business out of business.”
Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, state lawmakers passed legislation giving businesses protections from pandemic-inspired lawsuits.