Ohio’s legal climate received its lowest grade in fifteen years from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s Institute for Legal Reform 2019 Lawsuit Climate Survey. Unfortunately for Ohio businesses, we dropped nine spots from 2017 to a ranking of 35th best – or 15th worst – legal climate in the nation.
The survey results are based on interviews with over one thousand corporate attorneys who represent or work for public and private companies with at least $100 million in annual revenue. The survey asks these attorneys to rank a state based upon ten characteristics of the judicial system. These characteristics include enforcing meaningful venue requirements, treatment of tort and contract litigation, treatment of class actions and multi-district litigation, trial judges’ impartiality and competence, jury fairness and quality of appellate review.
Ohio has progress to make in each of these fields because the state failed to break into the top 30 states in any category. Trial judge impartiality was the state’s highest ranking at 32nd and quality of appellate review was the state’s lowest ranking at 39th.
At the Ohio Chamber, we know a state’s legal climate is a major driver for economic growth, which is why a major focus of our organization is promoting a common-sense civil justice system. We write amicus briefs on pending litigation when we feel a particular outcome in a case would cause further harm to our legal climate. At the Statehouse, along with our partners at the Ohio Alliance for Civil Justice, we advocate for legislation that promotes a balanced civil justice system and we push back against legislation that tilts the scales of justice against job creators.
We are justified in our efforts to promote a common-sense civil justice system as part of our mission to champion economic growth for the benefit of all Ohioans because the same Institute for Legal Reform survey found that 89 percent of respondents reported that a state’s litigation environment is likely to impact where a company locates or operates.
Unfortunately, Ohio’s legal climate may fall further in the rankings by 2021 thanks to the willingness of some state appellate courts to disregard the law and certify class action lawsuits that have failed to meet the criteria for class certification. Also, several pieces of legislation introduced in the 133rd Ohio General Assembly would create additional harm to the legal climate if enacted because the bills seek to eliminate statutes of limitation, revive claims that have run past the applicable statute of limitation, increase tort damage caps, and exempt certain claims for tort caps entirely.
The Ohio Chamber will continue to advocate for a civil justice system that is fair to all parties in litigation and our ranking of 15th worst legal climate in the nation will serve as motivation to bring about further reform wherever it is needed.