CHARLESTON -- If you think that tax check postmarked no later than Tuesday is all you owe, think again.
According to West Virginia Citizens Against Lawsuit Abuse, a typical family of four will pay another $ 3,520 this year via a lawsuit tax based on the per capita cost of America's litigation system built into goods and services passed on to consumers.
WV CALA Executive Director Steve Cohen points to a national study which shows that frivolous lawsuits make our health care more expensive and add to the cost of consumer goods, ranging from a ladder from the hardware store, batting helmets from the sporting goods store, groceries –- even our cars, trucks and minivans.
"That's $ 3,520 a family could debit into our checkbook instead of greedy personal injury lawyers and other legal system costs grabbing it from us," Cohen said. "Even if you have never been sued, we all end up paying for lawsuit abuse."
Cohen said a national survey recently released by the Washington, D.C.-based American Tort Reform Foundation notes that the litigation explosion is estimated to drain about $623 million from West Virginia's economy, resulting in lost jobs and business closings. Roughly 16,000 jobs in the state have been projected to be lost from lawsuit abuse, the foundation says.
And Cohen said a national litigation-cost study projects these costs will continue to climb.
"This is what happens when the courts are used as a legal roulette wheel by personal injury lawyers," he said, referring to a litany of cases which give West Virginia its reputation as a "judicial hellhole," such as:
* a high school graduate suing that he is "unprepared for life,"
* the shopper who sued over a spider bite from grapes she purchased,
* a lawsuit brought by the mother of a girl who sustained a playground splinter, and
* the personal injury lawyer who collected $143,000 in legal fees on a jury award to his client of less than $8,000
WV CALA said West Virginia's "venue problem" adds to this lawsuit tax because state courts are open to personal injury lawyers and their out-of-state plaintiffs.
Cohen also mentioned Attorney General Darrell McGraw's practice of hiring "campaign-contributing personal injury lawyer pals" as outside counsel in lawsuits "when we taxpayers already give him a legal staff of 200."
"These McGraw cronies reap millions of public dollars that add to our lawsuit tax," Cohen said. "A Sunshine law to make his hiring practices transparent to the public would be a tax-saving reform for every West Virginian."