Member's Press Release

Release Date: 12/17/2015
Contact: Senate President Bill Cole at 304 357-7801

President Cole

Senate President Bill Cole Praises West Virginia's Removal from 'Judicial Hellholes' List

CHARLESTON – Senate President Bill Cole, R-Mercer, today with Speaker of the House Tim Armstead, R-Kanawha, praised West Virginia’s removal from the American Tort Reform Association’s “Judicial Hellholes” list in its 2015 annual report.

“Being removed from the ‘judicial hellhole’ list after more than a decade is a strong indication that new legislative leadership is working to make our state more business friendly,” Senate President Cole said. “These reforms have delivered proven results including lower insurance rates for businesses and families, and they will create new jobs here in West Virginia.”

In this year’s report, West Virginia was moved to the “watch list,” which can be directly attributed to the Legislature’s aggressive efforts in passing legal reform during the 2015 Legislative session. The state had been at or near the top of the “Judicial Hellholes” list since its creation in 2003.

“For many years, civil justice reform could not be achieved in West Virginia because of the power and influence wielded by plaintiffs’ lawyers serving in the legislature,” this year’s report says. “But after voters on Election Day in 2014 decided to make a political course correction, the legislature, under strong leadership by Senate President Bill Cole and House Speaker Tim Armstead, made adoption of meaningful reforms a top priority in 2015.”

During the 2015 legislative session, the State Senate took the lead in passing a number of laws designed to bring West Virginia’s civil justice system into line, including:

  • House Bill 2002, which abolished joint and several liability in favor of a comparative fault system that better ensures that defendants only pay for damages which they caused;
  • Senate Bill 3, which prevented the collection of damages against a homeowner from a person who was trespassing and suffered an injury;
  • Senate Bill 6, which clarified provisions of West Virginia’s Medical Professional Liability Act to help control the costs of liability insurance and adjust existing limitations for civil damages;
  • Senate Bill 13, which protects business and home owners from being sued in the event that a person is injured by a hazard or condition that is open and obvious;
  • Senate Bill 411, which prevented “double dipping” in relation to the Asbestos Claim Trust Act; and
  • Senate Bill 421, which adjusted the state’s cap on punitive damages in civil actions Earlier this year, the United States Chamber of Commerce’s Institute for Legal Reform recognized Cole and Armstead with its State Legislative Achievement Award.

    “We’re moving our state in the right direction,” Senate President Cole said. “However, it’s clear from being moved to the ‘Watch List’ that we still have our work cut out for us. We are ready to head into this Legislative session to continue our progress, and to keep making improvements to West Virginia’s business climate. It is my goal to send a strong message to the nation and world that West Virginia is open for business so we can grow our economy and create good jobs for our workers.”

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