Civil Justice Reform News

  • Survey Finds Arkansas' Lawsuit Climate Ranks Among Worst in Nation

    September 10, 2015

    WASHINGTON, D.C.—Arkansas’ lawsuit climate has worsened in recent years and now ranks number 41 out of 50 states according to a new national survey released today by the U.S. Chamber Institute for Legal Reform (ILR). That’s a drop of six places since the survey was last conducted in 2012.

    According to the 2015 Lawsuit Climate Survey: Ranking the States, 75 percent of company general counsels and senior attorneys say a state’s lawsuit environment is likely to impact important business decisions at their company, including where to locate or expand. That is an 18 percent increase from eight years ago, and an all-time high. 

    “More business leaders than ever have identified a state’s lawsuit climate as a significant factor in determining their growth and expansion plans,” said Lisa A. Rickard, president of ILR. “Arkansas’ legislature has enacted some meaningful legal reforms over the last decade, only to see them struck down by the State Supreme Court.” 

    In 2011, the Arkansas Supreme Court struck down reasonable safeguards that the state legislature enacted in 2003 against runaway punitive or noneconomic damages awards in personal injury cases.

    “Amending the state’s constitution would allow Arkansas to continue to attract businesses and build its economy,” said Rickard. 

    In recent years, Arkansas has enacted some legal reforms, including an attorney general “sunshine” law to promote transparency and limits on contingency fees when the state attorney general hires outside private plaintiffs’ lawyers to conduct state business. It also passed a law to rein in “lawsuit lending” abuses where lenders provide “up-front” cash to individual plaintiffs to cover immediate living or medical expenses during litigation at sky-high interest rates of up to 200 percent. 

    However, survey participants gave Arkansas’ court system low rankings for its handling of class actions and for having and enforcing meaningful venue requirements aimed to prevent plaintiffs’ lawyers from seeking out favorable court rooms. 

    In tandem with the 2015 Lawsuit Climate Survey, ILR today released 101 Ways to Improve State Legal Systems, listing key legal reforms that states can adopt to improve their lawsuit climates. ILR also launched a national media campaign to raise awareness about the importance of a fair and balanced lawsuit system. 

    Harris Poll, a global polling firm, conducted the 2015 Lawsuit Climate Survey through telephone and online interviews between March 9 and June 24, 2015. The respondents were more than 1,200 general counsels and senior attorneys or leaders in companies with annual revenues of at least $100 million.

    See the entire 50-state list and read a full copy of the 2015 Lawsuit Climate Survey online at:www.instituteforlegalreform.com/. To read 101 Ways to Improve State Legal Systems, click here.

    ILR seeks to promote civil justice reform through legislative, political, judicial, and educational activities at the national, state, and local levels.

    The U.S. Chamber of Commerce is the world’s largest business federation representing the interests of more than 3 million businesses of all sizes, sectors, and regions, as well as state and local chambers and industry associations. 

  • U.S. Chamber Applauds Enactment of Arkansas Law to Rein in Lawsuit Lending Abuses

    U.S. Chamber Applauds Enactment of Arkansas Law to Rein in Lawsuit Lending Abuses

    April 03, 2015

    WASHINGTON, D.C. – Lisa A. Rickard, president of the U.S. Chamber Institute for Legal Reform (ILR), issued the following statement today applauding Governor Asa Hutchinson for signing into law a bill to rein in lawsuit lending abuses (SB 882). Lawsuit lending is a financial practice that provides "up-front" cash to individual plaintiffs to cover immediate living or medical expenses during litigation.

    "We applaud Governor Hutchinson and the state legislature for enacting a strong bipartisan law requiring lawsuit lenders to play by the same rules as others who provide loans in Arkansas. Lawsuit lending shortchanges injured consumers since these loans are typically attached to sky-high interest rates – as much as 200 percent – that leave borrowers with little to no recovery from their lawsuit once the loan is repaid. The practice also increases litigation costs and crowds court dockets.

    "With the signing of this law, Arkansas joins Tennessee in placing commonsense legislative safeguards around such loans. Other states ought to follow their lead.  

    "We especially commend bill sponsor Senator Jason Rapert for his tireless work on this law. Because of his leadership on this critical issue, consumers and businesses in Arkansas will no longer be exploited by this predatory industry."

    ILR seeks to promote civil justice reform through legislative, political, judicial, and educational activities at the global, national, state, and local levels.

    The U.S. Chamber of Commerce is the world’s largest business federation representing the interests of more than 3 million businesses of all sizes, sectors, and regions, as well as state and local chambers and industry associations.

  • U.S. Chamber Applauds Signing of Arkansas AG Sunshine Law

    U.S. Chamber Applauds Signing of Arkansas AG Sunshine Law

    April 01, 2015

    WASHINGTON, D.C. – Lisa A. Rickard, president of the U.S. Chamber Institute for Legal Reform (ILR), issued the following statement applauding Governor Asa Hutchinson for signing the attorney general sunshine bill (SB 204) into law. The law promotes transparency and limits contingency fees when the Attorney General of Arkansas hires outside private plaintiffs' lawyers.

    "Governor Hutchinson and the legislature should be commended for reforming the practice of awarding contingency fee contracts to outside plaintiffs' lawyers. Such schemes enrich lawyers at the expense of taxpayers and raise concerns about 'pay-to-play,' conflicts of interest, the use of a public entity for personal gain, and fairness in prosecutions.

    "With the signing of this law, Arkansas joins a growing group of states, including Alabama, Arizona, Florida, Indiana, Iowa, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, Utah, and Wisconsin that have recently taken action to limit outside contingency fee counsel arrangements by state attorneys general. 

    "Arkansas’s law enacts strong sunshine measures. In particular, it includes a prohibition on the use of civil penalties or fines to calculate contingency fee awards and an overall cap on the total amount of money that outside lawyers can collect. Other states should follow Arkansas’s lead and adopt similar legislation.

    "We commend Senator Jane English for her tireless leadership on this issue, as well as Representative Karilyn Brown and the Arkansas State Chamber of Commerce for their steadfast support and work on the law. We also thank Attorney General Leslie Rutledge for her thoughtful input throughout the process."

    ILR seeks to promote civil justice reform through legislative, political, judicial, and educational activities at the global, national, state, and local levels.

    The U.S. Chamber of Commerce is the world’s largest business federation representing the interests of more than 3 million businesses of all sizes, sectors, and regions, as well as state and local chambers and industry associations.