Study Finds LA Jury Trial Threshold More Than 28 Times National Average
BATON ROUGE, LA – A new report released today by the non-partisan citizen watchdog group, Louisiana Lawsuit Abuse Watch (LLAW), found the vast majority of states have no threshold for civil jury trials, and among the 14 states that do, Louisiana’s threshold is by far the highest in the nation. At $50,000, Louisiana’s jury trial threshold is roughly more than 28 times the national average of $1,742.40.
“Most Louisiana citizens believe they have an automatic right to a trial before a jury of their peers,” said LLAW Executive Director Melissa Landry. “That is correct in criminal cases, but not in all civil lawsuits. Because of a unique law in Louisiana which dictates that civil claims under $50,000 must be decided by a judge, not a jury, many citizens are being denied their fundamental right to a trial before a jury.”
A copy of the report is available here.
“The practical impact of Louisiana’s $50,000 jury trial threshold has been to significantly reduce the number of civil jury trials held in the state and minimize important citizen participation in the civil justice system,” Landry continued.
Court data from 2000- 2010 show that the number of civil jury trials held in district courts only represent a very small fraction of the actual number of cases filed.
“Unfortunately, this puts more power into the hands of Louisiana’s elected judges and may encourage a culture of venue ‘shopping’ where some contingency fee attorneys, who make their money directly based on court outcomes, seek out judges who have an established track record of ruling in favor of plaintiffs,” Landry said.
“While most of our state’s judges are fair and reasonable and uphold themselves to the highest ethical standards, it is clear that money contributed to judicial elections may at times add an element of political pressure that juries do not experience. Removing or lowering Louisiana’s civil jury trial threshold will allow more citizens to participate in the judicial process and give more parties involved in court proceedings the opportunity to have their issues decided by citizens rather than elected officials.”