Legal Watchdog Group Urges State Leaders to Address Legacy Lawsuit Lottery, Help Louisiana Shed “Hellhole” Label
BATON ROUGE – As part of a continuing recent trend of bad news about Louisiana’s legal climate, the Pelican state once again finds itself on the “Watch List” in the American Tort Reform Foundation’s annual “Judicial Hellholes” report, which was released today.
According to the state’s legal watchdog group, Louisiana Lawsuit Abuse Watch (LLAW), the main area of concern highlighted in the Hellholes report is Louisiana’s reputation as a “legacy lawsuit lottery.”
“Unfortunately, Louisiana’s pattern of doling out millions of dollars for hugely exaggerated claims of environmental damage as a result of decades-old oil and gas production has spawned a cottage industry of cookie cutter lawsuits that are giving Louisiana a bad name and threatening the survival of a critical aspect of our energy sector,” said Melissa Landry, LLAW’s executive director. “This jarring reputation as a potential Judicial Hellhole should concern every policymaker and citizen in Louisiana hoping to see more jobs and a stronger economy for our state.”
“This is not the first time Louisiana has been called out on the national stage for its poor legal climate, and whether we like it or not, reputations matter,” Landry continued. “The perception of a state’s legal climate affects how companies do business, and where they decide to invest and create new, well-paying jobs.
Legacy lawsuits are civil claims aimed at well sites in Louisiana where there may be damage to the land that in many cases may have occurred decades ago. The impact they’re having is slowing down oil production, jobs and tax revenues at a time when we need it most. As noted in the Hellholes report, more than 1,500 companies- large and small- have been targeted in more than 250 legacy suits over the past five years. The result is a stagnating Louisiana on-shore oil business in recent years, as compared to a growing and robust industry in neighboring Texas where these types of lawsuits are not a problem.
Another impact of legacy lawsuits is that they can delay cleanup of the land where it is needed for years or even a decade while these legacy suits languish in our courts.
“With the 2012 legislative session on the horizon, our lawmakers and state leaders should be thinking about what they can do to make Louisiana more competitive. Addressing the legacy lawsuit issue and passing other meaningful legal reforms to help move Louisiana off the judicial hellholes ‘Watch List’ would be a great place to start.”