New Jersey's justice system doesn't rank among the most unfair and out-of-balance in the nation, but it's pretty close.

Flickr user: david_shane

In the American Tort Reform Association's Judicial Hellholes report released today, the Garden State was placed on the watch list with its history of litigation abuse and troublesome rulings. Civil courts in California replaced Philadelphia to top the 2012-2013 hellhole rankings. New York City ranked fourth.

A sizable majority of Americans cited concern that an unbalanced civil justice system and excessive liability can hurt economic growth, job creation and U.S. competitiveness, according to ATRA.

New Jersey had ranked among the hellholes in years past, but the state showed signs of improvement recently with an important court decision that protects name-brand drug makers from liability in claims involving generic drugs made by competitors. However, the report noted medical liability cases continue to "pop up like weeds" in New Jersey. It also highlighted "outrageous claims" against Little Leaguers and police officers.

"Being on a judicial hellhole watch list is simply bad for business," said Marcus Rayner, Executive Director of New Jersey Lawsuit Reform Alliance. "It means employers know that New Jersey is a place where you're more likely to get sued, and more likely to lose a lawsuit, than in other places."

A strong driver of the Jersey economy has been the pharmaceutical industry, employing tens of thousands of residents. On the other hand, Rayner said New Jersey has become a better place for people to sue that industry than any other jurisdiction in the country.

Rayner continued, "Even federal judges have said that if you can get your suit into Atlantic County, you have a really good chance of recovering money from these corporate defendants. If you get your suit in federal court or other states, it's going to be a much more fair process."

Rayner said his alliance and the state legislature have measures in the works to reform New Jersey's justice system, and it's important for citizens and employers to have those reforms enacted.

"We just want to make sure that New Jersey is a fair venue where plaintiffs can have their day in court, but defendants get a fair shake as well," he said. "If that's the case, companies will continue to create jobs in the state."