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Trial lawyers, rejoice: The year’s most ludicrous civil court decisions

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Robby Soave
Reporter

Another year, another parade of frivolous lawsuits resulting in millions of dollars in compensatory damages and trial lawyer fees.

The American Tort Reform Association publishes a yearly list of the most unbelievable civil litigation outcomes from around the country. The ATRA’s “Judicial Hellholes” report spotlights unique cases of judicial overreach that expand the average person’s liability while trampling legal precedents and striking down tort reforms.

Here is The Daily Caller’s selection of five of the worst offenders.

BP still paying for Gulf Coast cleanup, and everyone is cashing in: In response to the Gulf Oil Spill in 2010, BP waived its own liability cap and agreed to pay compensation to all residents who had suffered economic losses, with just one stipulation–the losses had to be real.

It didn’t take long, however, for the abuse to begin. As a result of a settlement with a group of lawyers representing self-described spill victims, BP agreed to make additional payments, “knowing full well that this would likely mean that people whose economic losses had no connection to the spill would receive compensation,” in the words of New York Times columnist Joe Nocera.

In Nocera’s view, BP did the honorable thing by agreeing to pay more claims than what the law required. Thanks to the ensuing flood of baseless claims and corrupt court decisions, however, no company will ever again make the mistake of being too nice.

In West Virginia, if you fall down the stairs, it’s the property owner’s fault: Liability law generally holds that property owners must warn people about dangers and pitfalls that aren’t readily noticeable. It does not, however, require property owners to line their stores and houses with pillows, guarding against every conceivable injury.

The West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals recently said otherwise. The plaintiff in the case was a man who walked with a cane, and was accustomed to frequent tumbles. Yet he chose to descend a flight of stairs in a store parking lot, even though there were no guardrails. (The owner had removed the guardrails due to his concern that the skateboarders who frequented them were going to break their necks, and was scheduled to have new rails installed in two weeks.)

The court ruled 3-2 that the owner was at fault for the man’s injuries. Writing for the dissent, Justice Allen Loughry II wrote that the unfortunate decision would, “saddle property owners with the impossible burden of making their premises ‘injury proof’’ for persons who either refuse or are inexplicably incapable of taking personal responsibility for their own safety.”

West Virginians: If you suspect someone is recklessly unconcerned with his own safety, best not to let him on your property at all.