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Wednesday, January 29, 2020

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Reform desperately needed to improve Louisiana judicial climate

Reform desperately needed to improve Louisiana judicial climate

Louisiana residents pay the second-highest insurance rates in the country.

From the high cost and lack of options for auto insurance to the proliferation of advertising across Louisiana billboards and airwaves to ongoing allegations of judicial misconduct, Louisiana’s climate of lawsuit abuse has been a hot topic in 2019.

All these factors have contributed to a rise in Louisiana’s ranking in the American Tort Reform Foundation’s annual “Judicial Hellholes” report, released this week. Louisiana joined Philadelphia, California and New York City at the top of the list, rising one spot from last year to the fourth worst legal climate in the nation. Louisiana has consistently ranked in the top ten for the past five years.

Louisiana residents pay the second-highest insurance rates in the country. While Louisiana drivers don’t have more accidents based on the national average, the state has more than twice the national average in bodily injury claims filed.

When these claims are filed, our $50,000 jury trial threshold – by far the highest in the nation – incentivizes trial lawyers to file below this amount and go ‘judge shopping’ to secure favorable venues for their clients.

This manipulation of our judicial system increases costs for all of us. Louisiana families pay a hidden ‘tort tax’ of more than $4,000 per household in expenses related to civil litigation – among the five highest in the nation. At the same time, insurance options are decreasing and getting more expensive for the businesses and industries that fuel our economy. The lack of competition is reaching a crisis point, driving some businesses out of the state.

Our legal climate is also not overlooked by potential new businesses; this impacts job creation and reinforces our reputation as one of the worst states in the nation for doing business.

Lawsuits targeting the oil and gas industry are not the solution to addressing coastal land loss. Since 2013, millions have been spent on legal fees, with nothing accomplished for our coast. At same time, jobs and tax revenues are leaving the state. Further, there is no requirement that any eventual settlement funds be used for remediation. Private lawyers should not be substituted for democratically elected decision-makers working collaboratively with industry-leading scientists and researchers toward sustainable, long-term solutions for our coast.

Numerous cases of judicial misconduct also impact Louisiana’s civil justice climate, erode the public’s trust and discourage both large and small businesses from investing in Louisiana.

If these issues are not addressed through common sense civil justice reforms, the situation will worsen. Our citizens work hard to provide for their families, and it is time to have their voices heard over those of the entrenched trial bar.

Lana Venable, 

Louisiana Lawsuit Abuse Watch Executive Director

Karen Eddlemon, 

Louisiana Coalition for Common Sense Executive Director