Another year has just about gone by, which means it's time for South Florida to appear once again on the American Tort Reform Association's list of "judicial hellholes."
Every year since 2003 -- when they actually just picked Miami-Dade County -- South Florida has maintained its spot among the crappiest civil justice systems in the nation.
"Traditionally, Judicial Hellholes have been considered places where civil judges systematically apply laws and court procedures in an unfair and unbalanced manner, generally against defendants in civil lawsuits," ATRA President Tiger Joyce says in the association's announcement. "The jurisdictions we name as Judicial Hellholes each year are not the only unfair courts in the nation, but they are among the most unfair, based on our survey of litigants and considerable independent research."
According to the ATRA, "perennial judicial hellhole South Florida" makes the list once again due to "auto-accident fraud racketeers."
Here's the short summary from the ATRA:
South Florida, known for its aggressive personal injury bar, is the national epicenter of excessive and fraudulent automobile insurance litigation and tobacco lawsuits. The state's insufficiently rigorous standard for admission of expert testimony contributes to its reputation as a Judicial Hellhole. While the state legislature has made steady progress in reasonably limiting liability in certain areas, the Florida Supreme Court's record of striking down such legislative efforts leaves observers cautiously optimistic at best.
With a nice shout-out to a cover story on 411-PAIN by New Times' own Lisa Rab, the report highlights the "personal injury protection" system that practically begs for fraud to be committed.
Gov. Rick Scott has highlighted PIP in recent months as one of his top priorities for reform, but until then, it's still going on.
The report from the ATRA also highlights a case about a circuit court judge in Miami-Dade tossing out a pretty huge class-action lawsuit against Tire Kingdom, and the fact that Florida courtrooms are some of the best for Philip Morris and friends.
The ATRA did note that South Florida was making progress, but, seriously, nine times on the list is a bit ridiculous.
The American Association for Justice, on the other hand, thinks it's all bogus.
"This year's edition of the report was basically the same recycled report from previous years that has been debunked and ridiculed for lacking any "apparent methodology" and for being little more than corporate propaganda," says the organization's communication director, Ray De Lorenzi.
De Lorenzi sent us this link to his organization's retort to the ATRA report.
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ATRA's announcement and full report can be found here.