A new survey conducted by The Harris Poll on behalf of The U.S. Chamber Institute of Legal Reform ranked states by questioning senior business executives about the fairness and reasonableness of the state court systems.

Chief Operating Officer Harold Kim said respondents were asked a series of questions such as, "How are the state's judges and juries?" "How are the rules on the books when it comes to expert evidence standards or discovery procedures?"

New Jersey's legal system is dismal. It received its worst ranking since the U.S. Chamber Institute of Legal Reform began the poll in 2002. In 2019, New Jersey ranked 43rd on the list, putting the state in the bottom 10 on the list.

Kim blamed the low ranking mainly on New Jersey's Legislature. He said they have moved legislation that is described as liability expanding. For example, he said they amended the worker's compensation law in the state to give trial lawyers more of a share of recoveries from employees to inflate their fees.

He also said there have been issues of the use of arbitration in the employment context that the legislature has moved legislation to prohibit pre-disputed arbitration as a method of resolving disputes.

There is also the Equal Pay Act, which came out and expands liability by creating longer statutes of limitation for potential claims, added Kim.

But Kim said the state Supreme Court that has been the adult in the room by issuing rulings that are consistent with the rule of law.

"If there is any glimmer of hope, it has been your highest court," said Kim.

To improve its ranking, Kim said New Jersey's legislature needs to reconsider the impacts of some of these liability expanding measures. Not only does it have an impact on companies operating within the state, it's also has an impact on New Jersey residents because they are paying a cost associated with litigation called a tort cost.

In 2016, Kim said New Jersey had one of the highest tort costs in the county. Based on an economic study, families in New Jersey are paying on average $5,551 per household for this tort cost, which includes highest costs for insurance premiums for house and cars, health services and more. He said New Jersey families are bearing the burden and it's double the national average. Kim stressed this is going to have an impact both on families trying to make ends meet as well as businesses in the state.

Kim said the big takeaway from the survey is that of the 1,300 respondents, a record 89% of business leaders said a state's legal climate impacts company decisions such as where to locate, expand or create jobs.

Delaware's legal system is the best followed by Maine, Connecticut, Wyoming and Alaska. Illinois has the worst legal system followed by Louisiana, California, Mississippi and Florida.

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