In the state of West Virginia, legislation which would prohibit specific financial demands for damages in personal injury and wrongful death cases from being included by attorneys has drawn support from both trial attorneys and defense counsel.
Earlier in March, the state’s Legislature passed House Bill 4120, which would prohibit such demands. Exceptions are provided by the bill for cases when a specific amount is necessary for obtaining or preserving jurisdiction or otherwise required by an existing statute or rule. A similar law for medical malpractice cases is already in place.
West Virginia Governor received the bill after it was unanimously passed by both the House and Senate.
The president of the West Virginia Association for Justice, mentioned two lawsuits filed in 2007 which helped trigger public perception about “frivolous” suits, although both were outside of “the accepted practice of responsible attorneys.”
In one case, a judge in Washington, D.C. filed a $54 million suit against a dry cleaner for losing a pair of pants. The other was a West Virginia suit for $10 million filed against McDonald’s for putting cheese on a hamburger.
Both lawsuits received national attention but would not have attracted any attention had the attorneys filing the cases not included large, unjustified financial demands. She says that the legislation would help ensure that the evidence in the case fully supports the damages being sought.
Some attorneys are abusing the practice for the sake of publicity or attention, which is harmful to the state through the public backlash.