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Eric T. Chaffin
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Misinformation Released by So-Called WV CALA Poll About Lawsuits In West Virginia

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Several pieces of misinformation are making headlines across West Virginia. A recent so-called poll administered by the self-named West Virginia Citizens Against Lawsuit Abuse (WV CALA) claims residents in the mountain state believe that lawsuits are hurting the local economy and job creation. The poll, which in my opinion suggested answers to respondents, creating extreme bias, surveyed 401 people (supposedly West Virginia voters) and claims to have found the following:

• 53% support the creation of an intermediate appellate court
• 38% believe lawsuit reforms would help the state’s economy and job market
• 51% think lawsuits hurt job creation in West Virginia
• 50% interested in the election said the mountain state has one of the “worst legal systems in the United States”

These so-called opinions, which I believe were suggested to respondents of the polls, at best represent the misguided views of a small group.

No Civil Litigation Explosion in West Virginia

The fact is that unlike CALA tries to suggest, there is no civil litigation explosion. In a 2013 statistical report published by the West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals found that case filings reached their lowest level since 1985 in the state. It shows the number of cases dropped from 3,569 cases in 1999 to 1,319 in 2013. That is nearly half, which is a dramatic decrease and certainly not an explosion of lawsuits.

Further, a release from the West Virginia Association for Justice, WVAJ, cites a study by Richard Brisbin, Jr., and John C. Kilwein, The Future of the West Virginia Judiciary: Problems and Policy Options, which found that, “Since the 1980s West Virginia Circuit Courts-the trial court of general jurisdiction-have not experienced a massive upsurge in non-family law civil litigation.”

I have the utmost respect for Richard Brisbin Jr. (Ph.D., The Johns Hopkins University), and his work. He was my Political Science professor at West Virginia University and one of the people who influenced me to go to law school. Dr. Brisbin is a past editor of the Law and Politics Book Review and has published several articles in prominent political science journals. Dr. Brisbin’s study certainly highlights in a scientific way that there simply is no litigation explosion.

Job Creation Not Affected by Lawsuits & Litigation

Moreover, according to West Virginia Development Office publications, there have been more than $20 billion in new business developments in the state since 2005.

In fact, an article published in The Charleston Gazette cites a study by Arizona State University that found West Virginia ranked number 2 in job growth in 2012.

It’s Time to Stand Up and Defend Our State

I am a former federal prosecutor, a West Virginian by heart and still maintain law offices in West Virginia and other states. I represent only injured people in litigation. I was the first person in my family to attend college, let alone become a lawyer. I believe America has one of the best legal systems in the world and West Virginia’s legal system is among them. The legal system is why our families enjoy safe foods on our dinner tables, safe products and safe toys. At a time when there are disasters in the state such as the chemical spill in Charleston, it is hard to believe that a group like CALA would dedicate itself to creating propaganda to influence those in government with misinformation. But, don’t take my word for it folks, get the facts and form your own opinions. Also, consider the following about CALA:

• According to the Center for Justice and Democracy, CALA represents major corporations and industries “seeking to escape liability for the harm they cause consumers.” They stay afloat with money from “large corporate donors, including tobacco, insurance, oil and gas, chemical and pharmaceutical companies, medical associations and auto manufacturers.”
• APCO Worldwide, a D.C. PR firm, was paid millions to create these co-called CALAs to “give the appearance of a groundswell of public desire to alter the legal system to make it harder to bring lawsuits for injuries and illnesses caused by hazardous products.”

This raises some important questions.

• The WV CALA was formed in 1994, but who is really behind the group?
• Who is funding CALA? There are no membership fees or annual dues.
These are questions we need answered as citizens of West Virginia and citizens of the United States.

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  1. Dave Rao says:
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    Thanks for the sentiments. I’d like to draft you for West Virginia Attorney General for the 2016 circus election. Judge McGraw will donate the maximum and so will I. My favorite line is..”Well, the lawyers always eat.” In your case, I’m glad you do. You write the plain rotten truth.