New York City to Remain a “Judicial Hellhole” in 2021? Only Time Will Tell

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While 2020 delayed many aspects of litigation due to the COVID-19 pandemic, some jurisdictions such as New York City still managed to hold its title as one of the nation’s top judicial hellholes. As previously reported by the Asbestos Case Tracker, as of November 13, 2020, New York terminated the scheduling of any new jury trials.

However, according to American Tort Reform Foundation 2020-21 Judicial Hellholes, New York City still managed to see a dramatic increase in nuclear verdicts. These multimillion-dollar awards were noted to drive up the cost of business in the state and had a devastating impact on the economy.

Topping the judicial hellhole report was the Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas and the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania, followed by New York City and California. South Carolina, Louisiana, and Georgia round out the fourth, fifth, and sixth positions. St. Louis, Missouri; Cook, Madison, and St. Clair Counties in Illinois; and Minnesota fill out the final three positions, respectively.

Focusing on New York City, the KCIC reported that asbestos filings fell by 12 percent from January through October 2020, as compared to January through October 2019. However, New York City continues to be a preferred jurisdiction for asbestos litigation with a 7.2 percent increase in filings during the second quarter of 2020, compared to the same time in 2019. New York City has also seen a rise in talc litigation filings in 2020.

Madison County, Illinois, remains the most active asbestos docket in the United States. Through the first half of 2020, 32.2 percent of new asbestos cases were filed in Madison County and nearby St. Clair County, Illinois, was a close second, and Cook County, Illinois, ranked the eighth highest jurisdiction in the United States for asbestos cases. The report notes that total asbestos lawsuit filings were down 13 percent in 2020, but notes Philadelphia was one of the few jurisdictions that saw an increase in filings through the first two quarters of 2020, seeing an 11.7 percent rise in asbestos litigation. Philadelphia remains in the top four most popular jurisdictions to file asbestos-related lawsuits.

There is no doubt that COVID-19 has greatly impacted the court system and will continue to do so once all courts are fully operational. It will be interesting to note which jurisdictions remain on the judicial hellhole list in the upcoming year as we see a change in the way courts operate, especially regarding jury trials.