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NC’s Legal Climate Takes a Hit in Recent Ranking

| Tort Reform & Legal Climate

From 7th to 33rd in the nation, North Carolina’s legal climate fell 26 spots in the U.S. Chamber Institute for Legal Reform’s 2017 Lawsuit Climate Survey ranking, marking North Carolina’s lowest ranking since 2002. In addition to the drop in North Carolina’s overall ranking, the state’s ratings on all key legal elements evaluated by the ranking also fell. Those elements include the enforcement of meaningful venue requirements, overall treatment of tort and contract litigation, treatment of class action lawsuits, damages, proportional discovery, scientific and technical evidence, trial judges’ impartiality and competence, jury fairness and the quality of appellate review.

This decline naturally generates some concern, especially as North Carolina continues to top competitive leaderboards touting the state’s business climate. However, when our state takes a hit like this one, it’s important to evaluate its cause. One contributing factor is likely the shift in North Carolina’s Supreme Court to one that is inclined to expand liability, as was exemplified in the Court’s ruling in Wilkes v. City of Greenville. The Court’s decision in that case would have decimated the hard-fought workers’ compensation reforms of 2011 had the aligned business community not swiftly secured a legislative fix and unmasked a potential increase in liability risk as the Court interprets civil justice reforms going forward.

As one of just three states that experienced an overall decrease in its raw score since 2012, this ranking serves as an important reminder that other states are always working to become more competitive. North Carolina’s competitive future hinges on a strong legal climate that is conducive to new business investment, which is why we take the concerns expressed by general counsels in this ranking seriously. To better understand how our members feel about North Carolina’s legal climate, we created this two-question survey. Best completed by your general counsel or the individual in your organization most involved with legal affairs, this survey will help us gauge how the state’s legal climate is impacting your business. Thank you in advance for your help and I look forward to reviewing your responses.

Gary J. Salamido
Vice President, Government Affairs
North Carolina Chamber