CHARLESTON – West Virginia Citizens Against Lawsuit Abuse is taking shots at the state's "Open For Business" slogan in new radio ads criticizing recently passed legislation.
In the spots that began airing Monday, WV CALA says "greedy personal injury lawyers" bring the "wrong kind of business" to West Virginia, in reference to the so-called venue bill that the group says will allow personal injury lawyers and their out-of-state plaintiffs to keep filing lawsuits here. CALA pushed lawmakers and Gov. Joe Manchin to "fix the venue problem" in this year's legislative session.
"The politicians say that West Virginia is open for business," the narrator says in the ad. "Yet, out of state lawsuits take away jobs and waste our tax dollars.
"What do they do about it?" the narrator in the spot asks as listeners hear the sound of crickets chirping. "Nothing."
"The politicians did not fix the venue problem," CALA Executive Director Steve Cohen said. "But they are helping greedy personal injury lawyers at the expense of West Virginia taxpayers."
Cohen said last year's state Supreme Court ruling in Morris v. Crown Equipment "opened the floodgates for personal injury lawyer greed in West Virginia, making it possible for a resident of Virginia who was injured on the job in Virginia on a forklift made in Ohio to sue in West Virginia."
To prevent what he calls "litigation tourism" or "forum shopping," Cohen points to Justice Spike Maynard's dissent in the Crown case as the rationale for reform.
"(Ready access for West Virginia citizens to their courts) can be effectively achieved only by preventing nonresidents from abusing our courts by flooding them with litigation," Maynard wrote.
Manchin signed an anti-venue shopping bill this month which CALA said should have been vetoed.
"It was mere window-dressing, laden with loopholes from puppets of the lawsuit industry," Cohen said. "This was a chance for the politicians to keep West Virginia open for business and closed to out-of-state lawsuits. They blew it."
Cohen said CALA is spending $10,000 a week on the current radio ad blitz.