The gift that keeps on giving: constructive criticism

By The West Virginia Record | Dec 22, 2011

It's better to give than to receive –- and that's certainly true of criticism.

Everyone likes to offer criticism, but who likes to accept it?

Nevertheless, constructive criticism is one of the best gifts we'll ever get.

To truly appreciate it, though, you have to be honest enough to recognize the truth in it, and humble enough to embrace reform.

Every year about this time, the American Tort Reform Association (ATRA) offers West Virginia a gift in the form of its annual Hellholes report, documenting abuses in judicial systems and noting when improvements are made here and across the country.

ATRA has offered this same gift every year for a decade now, and West Virginia has been listed as a "judicial hellhole" for 10 years running.

The people who have made West Virginia a judicial hellhole do not appreciate being recognized for the dubious "achievement." They reject this gift of constructive criticism, refusing to acknowledge its accuracy or committing to rehabilitation.

"West Virginia's high court reached well-reasoned decisions this year when interpreting the state's consumer protection law and upholding the limit on subjective pain and suffering damages in lawsuits against health care providers," ATRA president Sherman "Tiger" Joyce acknowledged in a statement accompanying the release of the report.

But the big problems remain: our state's lack of full appellate review, our idiosyncratic liability rules, our excessively generous awards, our willingness to host weak cases from out-of-state plaintiffs, our marauding state attorney general, etc.

"The Judicial Hellholes report continues to acknowledge that West Virginia is taking positive steps," said Richie Heath, executive director of West Virginia's Citizens Against Lawsuit Abuse. "However, we have failed to fix the core problems that continue to plague our state's legal system, and with many other states passing significant legal reforms over the last year, West Virginia may fall even further behind."

The Hellholes report is a gift we can use to make West Virginia a better place to live and work. Let's be grateful for it and make the most of it.

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