Being 'Ripe for Asbestos-related Claims' is rotten
Railing against jackpot justice is something we do regularly. We think it's important to point out the devastating economic consequences that lawsuit abuse has on West Virginia. We think it's important to encourage reforms that will make our state more hospitable to new and existing businesses. This year, ChiefExecutive.net's annual survey of more than 500 of the nation's top CEOs ranked West Virginia as the 42nd best state to do business in, eight spots above last place. The American Tort Reform Foundation's annual report on "judicial hellholes" consistently ranks West Virginia as one of five states with the worst legal climates for doing business. Having our state classified as a hellhole is an obvious embarrassment to us, but for others, it's a perverse seal of approval. Tim Povtak of the Mesothelioma Center, for instance, recently posted an article at Asbestos.com extolling the qualities that make our state so unappealing to business, but attractive to law firms like the one that sponsors the Mesothelioma Center and Asbestos.com. "History shows West Virginia having plaintiff-friendly courts and sympathetic juries," Povtak exults. "There is no cap on punitive damages in West Virginia asbestos cases. And unlike other states, West Virginia has rejected efforts to discourage out-of-state residents from filing." And we thought that these were bad things. Povtak's attitude, and that of his sponsors, is summed up by the title of his article: "West Virginia Still Ripe for Asbestos-Related Claims." Ripe? Is that what we are, ripe? Like a fruit? "Still ripe for asbestos-related claims"? Isn't that the same as saying "still a hellhole"? Povtak and others of that ilk seem to find favor in the sentiment of Satan in Milton's Paradise Lost that it's "better to reign in Hell, than serve in Heaven." We want our state to be a heaven, not a hell, and we want the reign of a certain brand of plaintiffs attorneys to end.