It's time to say goodbye to hellhole

By The West Virginia Record | Dec 18, 2014

There isn't much positive to say about being a judicial hellhole.

Maybe the legislators, attorneys, and jurists responsible for earning our state that wretched designation can take a perverse pride in their “accomplishment,” but for the rest of us there is no upside.

Except one, maybe. When you've hit rock bottom, there's no place to go but up.

We've been at rock bottom for more than a decade now, rated a hellhole on the American Tort Reform Association’s annual report every year since 2003, but this year there are signs of change.

Singled out as “the main contributor to the state civil justice system’s poor reputation” is our Supreme Court of Appeals, which “rarely misses an opportunity to abandon traditional tort law and embrace novel theories of liability.”

Citing some of the more preposterous excesses of 2014, the report notes that the high court “has imposed a duty on home and business owners to protect visitors from open and obvious conditions, required certification of a class action of individuals united by the fact that they suffered no injury, and permitted recovery of inflated damages for fictional medical costs.”

In addition, “The state’s only appellate court also allowed scientifically unsound expert testimony and rendered a transparently results-oriented decision, written by a plainly conflicted chief justice. ...”

Nothing new there. Business as usual. Same old same old.

But signs of change were seen at the polling place.

“If there’s any reason for optimism, it may be found in Mountain State voters’ collective Election-Day decision to wrest control of the legislature from the personal injury bar,” said a spokesman for the reform group. “Perhaps new legislative majorities and the governor can work to solve some of the problems the high court has helped create. …”

We hope so.

In any case, we're headed in the right direction. If we keep the pressure on, we may be off the hellhole list a year from now.

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