CHARLESTON – West Virginia Citizens Against Lawsuit Abuse, a legal reform group, said Oct. 7-11 is Lawsuit Abuse Awareness Week.

CALA executive director Greg Thomas said the theme for the week is West Virginia’s lawsuit lottery, which he says consists of personal injury lawyers attempting to strike it rich at the expense of citizens in the state.

“Unfortunately for West Virginia job seekers and consumers, too many personal injury lawyers view our legal system as a game where they are trying to win the ‘lawsuit lottery,’” Thomas said.

“We hope that everyone will take a few moments this week to learn about how lawsuit abuse affects each and every one of us and what we can do to help prevent its devastating effects.”

CALA says a public opinion survey it conducted earlier this year showed that a majority of West Virginians believe legal reforms passed by the state legislature would have a positive impact on the economy.

Also, the survey showed that 57 percent of those polled support the creation of an intermediate appellate court. Currently, all appeals are handled by the state Supreme Court.

In 2012, the American Tort Reform Association ranked West Virginia as the No. 2 judicial hellhole in the country, trailing only California. West Virginia has made the group’s annual list every year since it began in 2002.

In February, former House Speaker Rick Thompson called for a year-long story of the state Supreme Court’s new appellate rules.

The court can reject an appeal but puts in writing its decision to do so. Some feel that still leaves litigants with no right to appeal.

“After lengthy review of the state’s civil justice system by an independent commission, the state Supreme Court enacted significant new appellate rules that ensure a review and written decision on each appeal filed with that court, yet critics outside West Virginia continue to attack our courts, calling them unfair,” Thompson said.

“I would like for the Legislature to thoroughly examine the new appellate rules and their effect on civil procedure.”

Thompson later resigned to become Secretary of Veterans Assistance. The proposed review never made it out of the Senate Judiciary Committee.

“Every year, (ATRA) identifies the most unfair and out-of-balance legal jurisdictions in the nation and the ‘lawsuit lottery’ mentality exhibited by too many local personal injury lawyers has caused West Virginia to make the Judicial Hellhole list for 10 consecutive years,” Thomas said.

“Even worse, our state has been ranked dead last every year since 2006 on the litigation fairness survey published by the U.S. Chamber Institute for Legal Reform.”

The West Virginia Record is owned by the ILR.

From the West Virginia Record: Reach John O’Brien at jobrienwv@gmail.com.

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