BATON ROUGE, LA (Dec. 5, 2017)— Louisiana is still one of the nation’s worst Judicial Hellholes®, according to a new report released today by the American Tort Reform Foundation (ATRF). The state has been singled out for unbalanced courts and excessive litigation eight years in a row and ranked as the nation’s eighth-worst Judicial Hellhole this year.
In explaining the ranking, ATRF’s 2017-2018 Judicial Hellholes report cited Gov. John Bel Edwards’ ongoing involvement in dozens of trial-lawyer generated lawsuits against energy companies over production activities conducted decades ago.
“Under his leadership, the state has joined forces with six local parishes to file more than 40 lawsuits targeting major providers of oil and gas jobs in Louisiana,” the report noted. “This summer, the governor added even more fuel to the hellholes fire when he hired one of his top political fundraisers to represent his office and the Louisiana Department of Natural Resources in an anticipated wave of new lawsuits, promising, ‘We’re going to be active litigants going forward.’”
“The Edwards administration has argued the suits are necessary to force energy companies to restore wetlands they allegedly damaged with exploration and production operations dating back to the 1930s, but the governor’s ongoing effort to enlist wealthy political supporters to run and possibly reap enormous legal fees from the litigation suggests other powerful motives may be at play,” the report concludes.
According to the report, other pressing issues that contribute to the state’s longstanding reputation as one of the worst places in the country to be sued include problematic venue laws that allow plaintiffs’ attorneys to shop around for favorable judges, a lack of transparency in asbestos litigation and trust claims, skyrocketing disability-access lawsuits targeting small businesses and broad misuse of consumer protection laws.
“There are many troubling aspects of Louisiana’s legal system that contribute to the perception that it is difficult, if not impossible, for some to get a fair shake in our courts,” said Melissa Landry, executive director of Louisiana Lawsuit Abuse Watch (LLAW). “We cannot continue to ignore these issues or expect that they will somehow fix themselves. Until we have a governor and a strong majority of state lawmakers that are willing to enact meaningful reforms, we will continue to be pegged as one of the nation’s worst judicial hellholes.”
The report also criticizes Louisiana’s unique jury trial threshold system, which dictates that in civil cases, any claim under $50,000 must be decided by a judge. At $50,000, Louisiana’s jury trial threshold is roughly more than 28 times the national average.
“Louisiana’s unusually high threshold clearly illustrates that our laws governing venue and access to jury trials are far outside the mainstream of what most other states are doing,” said Coalition of Common Sense Director Jim Harris. “This not only encourages unnecessary and sometimes meritless litigation, but it also increases the cost of everyday goods and services—especially when it comes to our car insurance rates. Legislative reforms to bring the jury trial threshold back into alignment are long overdue.”
The full text of ATRF’s Judicial Hellholes® report can be viewed at http://www.judicialhellholes.org.
American Tort Reform Association– ATRA is the only national organization dedicated exclusively to tort and liability reform through public education and the enactment of legislation. Its members include nonprofit organizations and small and large companies, as well as trade, business and professional associations from the state and national level. www.atra.org
Coalition for Common Sense- Formed in 2008, CCS is comprised of professional associations, companies, and individuals committed to passing legislation in Louisiana that ensures a fair legal climate for both truly harmed individuals and small and large businesses operating in the state. www.coalitionforcommonsense.com
Louisiana Lawsuit Abuse Watch– LLAW is a high-impact watchdog group with more than 10,000 supporters across the state dedicated to fixing Louisiana’s broken legal system through transparency, accountability and lawsuit reform. www.llaw.org.