CHARLESTON – A statewide legal reform group is using an annual event to raise awareness of lawsuit abuse to also highlight reforms happening in West Virginia.
West Virginia Citizens Against Lawsuit Abuse on Monday kicked off its annual Lawsuit Abuse Awareness Week, which is meant "to help raise awareness about abusive lawsuits and the tactics of greedy personal injury lawyers, and highlight recently passed lawsuit reforms."
WV CALA Executive Director Roman Stauffer said his organization aims to highlight why lawsuit abuse is a problem and how passing much needed lawsuit reforms can help improve West Virginia’s economic outlook.
“Every year we use Lawsuit Abuse Awareness Week to raise awareness about the cost of abusive lawsuits," Stauffer said. "When greedy personal injury lawyers abuse our legal system for their personal enrichment, we all pay and we all lose.
"Historically, West Virginia has seen so much lawsuit abuse it is known nationwide as a 'Judicial Hellhole.' Thanks to the leadership of Senate President Bill Cole and House Speaker Tim Armstead, we have many positive lawsuit reforms to highlight this year."
Stauffer said this year's week also will be used to highlight the lawsuit reforms recently passed during the legislative session and additional reforms that would bring West Virginia inline with surrounding states, such as the creation of an intermediate court of appeal.
He said WV CALA will continue to remind West Virginians about the influence personal injury lawyers once wielded at the State Capitol, which they used to stop much needed lawsuit reforms.
“West Virginians are already seeing the results of lawsuit reforms passed during the legislative session," Stauffer said. "State Senate President Bill Cole announced last week that a major auto insurance provider in West Virginia has reduced and will continue reducing their rates for customers.
"Thanks to legislative leaders like Senate President Bill Cole, lawsuit reform is a priority in the legislature’s economic growth agenda. We cannot afford to go back to the days of personal injury lawyers controlling our state Legislature.”
The president of the West Virginia Association for Justice, however, says CALA is the group abusing West Virginians.
"CALA can call this week whatever it wants, but the real abuses in this state are the unsubstantiated and unrelenting attacks made by CALA and its corporate funders against West Virginia and the people who live here," WVAJ President Paige Flanigan said. "It hasn’t stopped for more than 20 years. West Virginia ranks 39th among states in the number of suits filed. Our civil case load is declining, and the number of appeals to the West Virginia Supreme Court are at a 29-year low.
"Those numbers reflect the outstanding work being done by West Virginia judges, not a broken system. Now CALA is trumpeting the legislation passed this year as the so-called ‘fix’ for something that’s not even broken.”
Flanigan said there are two places where everyone is supposed to be equal – "the ballot box and in our courtrooms."
"CALA and its corporate backers have hijacked the ballot box by funneling millions into our elections," she said. "Their other focus is restricting our rights in the courtroom, ripping the blindfold off Lady Justice and tipping her scales in their favor.
"They will not stop until every West Virginia consumer, worker and small business is powerless and at their mercy, but they should remember something very important – David rose up and defeated Goliath.”