CHARLESTON – A statewide legal reform group says personal injury lawyers are pumping more money into state legislative races.
West Virginia Citizens Against Lawsuit Abuse released its updated “Dirty Dozen” list on April 6, just four days before the primary election. The WV CALA list is based on information from the Secretary of State’s Pre-Primary campaign finance reports.
“Some millionaire personal injury lawyers continue to pump money into campaigns of legislative candidates who support their ‘sue and settle’ agenda, who want to see more causes of actions to flood our legal system with lawsuits and who oppose the much needed lawsuit reforms recently enacted,” WV CALA Executive Director Roman Stauffer said in a press release. “They’re spending hundreds of thousands of dollars to try to turn West Virginia back in the wrong direction.”
Chad Lovejoy, a Huntington personal injury lawyer who is running in House District 17, still is atop the list with nearly half of his contributions – more than $18,000 – coming from personal injury lawyer interests.
Several other personal injury lawyers ranked high on the list. Stephen Skinner (Senate District 16), a personal injury lawyer and member of the House of Delegates, accepted more than $15,000 in personal injury lawyer contributions.
Personal injury lawyer and incumbent Delegate Andrew Byrd (House District 35) accepted nearly $12,000 from the personal injury lawsuit industry. Brian Prim, a personal injury lawyer from Putnam County (Senate District 4), accepted more than $8,500 from the personal injury lawsuit industry.
A majority of the list is made up of incumbents, including Senator Chris Walters (Senate District 8, $10,000), Senator Jack Yost (Senate District 1, $4,000), Senator Cory Palumbo (Senate District 17, $5,000), Delegate Isaac Sponaugle (House District 57, $3,250), House Minority Leader Tim Miley (House District 48, $3,000) and Delegate Shawn Fluharty (House District 3, $3,000).
Several non-incumbent legislative candidates made the list, including Lisa Zukoff (Senate District 2, $14,000), who raised a majority of her contributions from the personal injury lawsuit industry. Newcomer candidate Andrew Robinson (House District 36, $11,000) received a substantial portion of his contributions from the personal injury lawsuit industry.
WV CALA also notes the political action committee for the West Virginia Association for Justice – known as the Trial Lawyers PAC or LAWPAC – has contributed nearly $70,000 to legislative candidates during the Pre-Primary campaign finance period.
Additionally, a select group of personal injury lawyers have spent more than $425,000 in a last minute effort to buy a seat on our state’s Supreme Court of Appeals. Many of the contributions came from out-of-state law firms, with some personal injury lawyers giving as much as $100,000 to the Just Courts for WV PAC.
“These personal injury lawyers appear to be driven by lawsuit greed,” Stauffer said. “And they’ve gotten rich over the years from our ‘jackpot justice’ court system. Out-of-balance courts can cause West Virginians to pay higher prices for goods, lose access to important medical and community services, and lose out on good job opportunities.
“We will continue to shine a light on greedy personal injury lawyer spending and money-influence and let voters know who is behind these efforts and which candidates they support. As much as these lawyers would like to see it, West Virginia is not for sale.”