By Leslie Kwoh | The Star Ledger | October 8, 2010

Three in 10 business owners have either been sued or threatened with a lawsuit in the last five years, and another one in three predict they will be taken to court in the next five years, according to a study by the Monmouth University Polling Institute.

“A lawsuit can literally destroy a small business overnight,” said Marcus Rayner, executive director of the New Jersey Lawsuit Reform Alliance, which commissioned the report.

The survey, which polled 405 business owners in July, also found that seven in 10 respondents consider the state’s liability laws problematic, and slightly more than half feel the laws favor consumers over businesses. Eight in 10 said it was too easy to sue in New Jersey.

The alliance, which represents the state Chamber of Commerce and about 50 other professional associations and employers, used the survey yesterday to advocate for tort reform to improve the state’s competitiveness.

In the half-century since the state passed the Consumer Fraud Act, the legislation has been broadened to target not just scam artists, but also well-meaning businesses, Rayner said. Meanwhile, other states such as Texas, California, Mississippi and Oklahama, have made significant reforms to their civil justice laws, he said.

“It’s a powerful law and should be used to protect consumers from businesses who are truly trying to defraud people,” he said. “But now, it can be used to punish all sorts of businesses.”

Read entire story.