Sean Hackbarth Sean Hackbarth
Senior Editor, Digital Content, U.S. Chamber of Commerce


September 13, 2017


A healthy business climate needs a fair, reliable legal environment. With the United States’ “sue first, ask questions later” culture, some states are better than others.

Wonder where your state ranks? The U.S. Chamber Institute for Legal Reform (ILR) is here to help.

ILR released their 2017 Lawsuit Climate Survey: Ranking the States at the U.S. Chamber’s Small Business Summit.

The survey of senior business executives, conducted by Harris Poll, found South Dakota has the best legal climate, followed by Vermont, Idaho, Minnesota, and New Hampshire. Delaware, which held the top spot in every edition of the survey since 2002, fell to eleventh.

South Dakota made it to the top of the list by being #1 in three of ten key criteria: treatment of class action suits and mass consolidation suits; damages; and juries' fairness.

Overall, states’ legal environments are improving. More than six-in-ten of those surveyed “view the fairness and reasonableness of state court liability systems in the United States as excellent or pretty good, up from 50% in 2015 and 49% in 2012.”

“If this were a marathon, the pack of runners would be tightening, and running faster. States not keeping up on legal reform are being passed by,” said ILR President Lisa A. Rickard.

But no state should rest on its laurels. “There’s been progress, but let’s not kid ourselves—the ‘sue ‘em’ culture in the U.S. is still the world’s worst,” Rickard added.

A few states’ legal climates are so bad a “celebrity chef” had to chew them out.

Along with its survey, ILR released a series of ads putting the spotlight on three states that ranked at the bottom nationally: California; Illinois; and Louisiana.

California has become a haven for out-of-state lawsuits.

Illinois--specifically Cook County (Chicago) and Madison County--also has a reputation for being a magnet for lawsuits from across the nation.

At the bottom of the list is Louisiana for its lack of impartiality from its judges a history of misconduct by attorneys and judges.

The survey found that a state’s legal environment has become a bigger factor than ever for business executives. Eighty-five percent said, “a state’s litigation environment is likely to impact important business decisions at their companies, such as where to locate or to do business.”

For more good-paying jobs and faster-growing state economies, businesses need a fair legal environment. While progress is being made, more work must be done. 

About the authors

Sean Hackbarth

Sean Hackbarth

Sean writes about public policies affecting businesses including energy, health care, and regulations. When not battling those making it harder for free enterprise to succeed, he raves about all things Wisconsin (his home state) and religiously follows the Green Bay Packers.

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