Louisiana Lands On ‘Judicial Hellholes’ Watch List Again
BATON ROUGE, LA- The American Tort Reform Foundation’s (ATRF) 2012 “Judicial Hellholes” report places Louisiana on the group’s “watch” list for the third consecutive year.
ATRF defines a “Judicial Hellhole” as “a place where judges systematically apply laws and court procedures in an unfair and unbalanced manner.” The “watch list” is designed to call attention to jurisdictions that “bear watching due to troubling developments or their histories of abusive litigation.”
“The Judicial Hellholes report reflects the unfortunate reality that Louisiana businesses and individuals face on the front lines of lawsuit abuse every day,” said Melissa Landry, executive director of Louisiana Lawsuit Abuse Watch. “With astonishing multi-million dollar verdicts being rendered nearly every other week, and laws and judges that seem to give plaintiffs the upper hand in legal proceedings-it is no wonder that we’ve become a regular on the Hellholes watch list.”
The report specifically notes a $258 million verdict in a case against Janssen Pharmaceutical and Johnson & Johnson where no one was actually injured. To make matters worse, the lawsuit was brought on behalf of the state by private lawyers, hired on a contingency-fee basis, who will take home $70 million in fees and $3 million in court costs.
“While Attorney General Buddy Caldwell upheld this verdict as a big win for the state, it serves as a cautionary tale for those who may want to invest money and create jobs here in Louisiana,” Landry continued. “Essentially it says, beware of Louisiana’s civil justice system. A ‘home-cooked’ jury in a ‘magical jurisdiction’ could leave you with multi-million dollar verdict.”
ATRF also notes the growing influence of the personal injury bar in Louisiana. In recent years, plaintiffs’ lawyers have contributed hundreds of thousands of dollars to some of Louisiana’s top officials, including newly elected Supreme Court Justice Jeff Hughes, A.G. Buddy Caldwell and Governor Bobby Jindal.
“The tidal wave of campaign contributions flowing from personal injury lawyers to some of Louisiana’s top officials is troubling,” lamented Landry. “You don’t have to be a cynic to conclude that these financial relationships will certainly have some bearing on our ability to rein in lawsuit abuse.”
On a positive note, the report acknowledged Chairman Neil Abramson of the House Civil Law and Procedure Committee for his extraordinary efforts to pass legislation in the 2012 Legislative Session that will help to rein in excessive litigation in the niche sector of legacy lawsuits.
“It’s estimated legacy lawsuits have cost our state more than 30,000 jobs and $10 billion in economic output over the last eight years, so obviously the new reform bill is a very positive step in the right direction,” Landry said. “But in order to shed this ‘Hellholes’ reputation, we must continue challenging the status quo, and encourage our policymakers to take on broader reform efforts.”
The full text of the ATRF’s “Judicial Hellholes” report can be viewed at http://www.judicialhellholes.org.