Continue Tort Reform in W.Va.

For years, West Virginia was called a “judicial hellhole” by proponents of tort reform. That changed a little more than a year ago.

Then, when the American Tort Reform Foundation released its annual report on the climate of fairness in courts throughout the nation, West Virginia was not on the “hellhole” list. Reforms enacted by the Legislature were given credit for the change.

Just a few weeks ago, the foundation released another annual report. For the second consecutive year, the Mountain State was not ranked as a “hellhole.” More improvements were cited as the reason.

Unfortunately, our state still is on the foundation’s “watch list” — but it is not far away from being removed from even that.

Though many argued the “hellhole” listing was unfair and not based on reality, there can be no doubt that for many years, both the law and the courts administering it were viewed widely as being tilted against businesses. That reputation made it more difficult to attract job creators to our state and keep them here.

One reason our state has begun to change is that tort reform no longer is viewed as a one-party initiative.

During the past two years, reform efforts have been led by majority Republicans in the Legislature — but often with support from many Democrats. And most of the reform bills have had the support of Democrat Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin.

Often, restoring fairness to civil law required no more than using common sense. One important bill enacted less than a year ago prohibited recovery of damages suffered by people while commiting illegal acts.

A new governor, Democrat Jim Justice, and a Legislature including some new members will be taking office soon. Early in the new year, they will tackle a busy two months of lawmaking activity.

There are indications bipartisanship can continue in state government. If so, that will ease the way to more tort reform — and rest assured, it will be noticed by job creators inside and outside West Virginia.


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