NYC is drowning in ridiculous, pricey lawsuits

New York City is being tort-ured.

The Big Apple is drowning in so many frivolous lawsuits — over everything from food packaging and advertising to the design of retail Web sites — that the city’s court system has become one of the nation’s worst places for civil justice, a damning report out Tuesday reveals.

The American Tort Reform Foundation will give New York City the dubious distinction of placing No. 3 on its annual list of “Judicial Hellholes” where plaintiffs lawyers run amok with the help of accommodating judges and do-nothing lawmakers.

The report, a copy of which was provided to The Post in advance, turns up the heat on the city’s court system, which has previously come under fire from the ATRF for the “brazenly plaintiff-favoring ways” of a special court for asbestos-related, personal injury suits in Manhattan Supreme Court.

ATRF President Tiger Joyce said many cases in the report involved “a number of areas of litigation where really, when you boil it down, there really isn’t any particular kind of injury.

“The theory of the case is that somehow people have been harmed, when it hasn’t been demonstrated,” he said. “This new trend is something that we are obviously quite concerned about.”

In fact, the only places deemed worse than New York City for irresponsible tort filings are entire states: California at No. 1 and Florida at No. 2.

The report states that the cost and compensation paid in the US tort system totaled $429 billion in 2016, accounting for 2.3 percent of the US gross domestic product.

The ATRF report cites a 2017 study that found 22 percent of all “frivolous food lawsuits” nationwide were filed in the Big Apple, primarily over claims that food packages aren’t filled to capacity, or that products don’t live up to advertising that they’re “natural.”

In one case, a Manhattan federal judge tossed a class-action suit alleging that consumers were tricked into buying Junior Mints because the candy was “packaged in a box with more than one quarter of the box containing air.”

Judge Naomi Reice Buchwald said allowing the suit to proceed would “enshrine into the law an embarrassing level of mathematical illiteracy.”

“The law simply does not provide the level of coddling plaintiffs seek,” she added.

The report also cites a Post expose on Arik Matatov, who tried to shake down 50 Manhattan businesses because they didn’t have wheelchair ramps — even though he can walk on his own two feet.

Rulings last year by two federal judges, who mandated that all online retailers make their sites compatible with screen-reading software for the visually impaired, “opened the floodgates” for “cut-and-paste lawsuits against hundreds of stores,” the report says.

Complying with the rulings costs businesses as much as $37,000 to revamp their Web sites, the report says.

Last year, The Post reported that the lawyer for Derrick Anderson, a blind rapper from Queens, had filed 25 suits on his behalf under provisions of the rulings.

One defendant, the Paper Factory Hotel in Long Island City, called Anderson’s suit a “shakedown” in court papers.

The ATRF report also slams state lawmakers for failing to reform New York’s “scaffold law,” which imposes “absolute” liability on contractors and property owners whenever a worker is injured in a fall — even if it’s the result of the worker’s carelessness.

Greg Biryla, state director of the National Federation of Independent Businesses, which is a member of the ATRF, said frivolous litigation “increases the cost of doing business.”

“The litigious nature of New York state and New York City essentially amounts to another tax on employers of all sizes, but especially owners of small businesses and independent employers who can afford it least,” he said.

According to Joyce, “excesses in the legal system get passed on to the average consumer — it doesn’t get taken out of some special litigation fund.”

A report last year by the Institute for Legal Reform found that costs associated with litigation drove up prices for goods and services purchased by the average New York household by $6,600 annually — the highest rate in the nation.

Lawyer Jeffrey Gottlieb — who’s highlighted in the report for representing plaintiffs in dozens of Web site suits — noted that the Americans with Disabilities Act “has been the law for 27 years.”

“There’s no excuse for these companies not to have had their Web sites accessible . . . for disabled persons,” he said.

Lawyer C.K. Lee, who filed the Junior Mints case — and others like it “by the dozen,” according to the report — also defended those suits as important in combating “consumer fraud.”

Dewey, Cheatem & Howe?

These attorneys are highlighted in the new “Judicial Hellholes” report from the American Tort Reform Foundation:

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