CHARLESTON – A majority of West Virginia voters think legislative leaders should take up legal reform this session in an effort to improve the state’s economy, according to a recently release survey.
According to a survey conducted for West Virginia Citizens Against Lawsuit Abuse (WV CALA), 72 percent of Mountain State voters say the Legislature should make improving the economy and passing legal reforms a priority this legislative session. And 50 percent say legal reform would improve the economy, while 16 percent think it would have a negative effect.
"West Virginia voters care deeply about passing lawsuit reforms to help improve West Virginia’s economy and it should be a top priority for our state leaders heading into the legislative session,” WV CALA Executive Director Roman Stauffer said.
According to the survey, 56 percent of voters want an intermediate court of appeals in West Virginia. Last March, a similar survey found that 53 percent of residents wanted that.
“Increasingly, West Virginians are realizing that West Virginia is the only state without a guaranteed right of appeal, and the need for an intermediate court of appeals continues to grow,” Stauffer said.
Also, 74 percent of those surveyed want to see laws enacted to codify changes Attorney General Patrick Morrisey has made to make the workings of his office more transparent when hiring private lawyers and establishing the fees for those lawyers.
“Clearly, West Virginians support the policy that Attorney General Morrisey has put in place about how the state uses outside lawyers,” Stauffer said. “Morrisey’s policy has saved our state nearly $4 million, and the Legislature should put the policy into code so this good government policy is in place for future attorneys general.”
The CALA survey also showed that 71 percent of voters believe a party, if found liable, in a lawsuit should be required to pay an amount equal to their role in that accident.
“This is about fairness, and West Virginians overwhelmingly say that defendants should pay according to their share of responsibility for an accident,” Stauffer said. “Currently, someone with a smaller portion of the responsibility for an accident may end up paying more than what has been determined to be their share.”
The WV CALA survey, which was conducted by Charleston-based MBE Research, questioned 609 registered West Virginia voters Jan. 5-6 about several topics related to the state's legal climate. The margin of error is +/- 3.96 percent at a 95 percent confidence level.