In light of Newport News’ recent designation as a “Judicial Hellhole” by the American Tort Reform Association’s
(ATRA) report, several legal experts joined together to form a working group to discuss the increasing trend of runaway litigation, particularly surrounding asbestos claims in Newport News, and what it means for the future of tort reform in the commonwealth. About 30 representatives from various business and industry sectors attended the August 17th meeting.
The working group and panel event was co-hosted by ATRA and NFIB/Virginia. Panelists included Tiger Joyce, president of the ATRA; Mark Behrens, partner at Shook, Hardy & Bacon; and Karen Harned, executive director of the NFIB Small Business Legal Center.
Joyce kicked off the discussion by calling attention to Newport News and emphasizing that asbestos defendants are more likely to lose at trial in Newport News than in any other jurisdiction in the country. Behrens said this is due to a number of factors, including an extremely lax causation standard and blatant favoring of plaintiffs by way of evidentiary rules and double standards.
“It is important that we form this working group to address what is happening in Newport News right now,” Joyce said. “Newport News’ blatant bias toward plaintiffs in asbestos cases has harmful implications for that jurisdiction and the commonwealth.
Harned echoed Joyce’s sentiment. “If judges continue to apply the law unfairly, Virginia’s reputation as a state that wisely cultivates business investment and growth can be tarnished,” she said.