The United States has the most expensive civil justice system in the world, doubling the average of other developed nations. According to national estimates, more than 15 million lawsuits will be filed in state courts across the country this year. That’s one new lawsuit every two seconds or one lawsuit for every 12 adults in America.
While some of these lawsuits are absolutely legitimate, there’s no doubt others are meritless. Unfortunately, that can mean lost jobs and opportunities for small businesses and those who are employed by them.
Obviously, if a business is doing something wrong, it should be held accountable. But all too often small businesses are unfairly targeted by aggressive lawyers trying to score a big win. Many people don’t realize that the cost of defending itself against even one frivolous lawsuit could be enough to force a small business owner to close up shop. Small businesses can respond to market changes, because they have time to adjust and prepare, but lawsuits are notoriously unpredictable. That’s why we have to take steps to rein in abusive lawsuits and ensure that our courts are fair and accessible to everyone.
Small businesses are the heart and soul of Louisiana. We represent 97 percent of all employers in the state and employ 55 percent of the state's private-sector workforce. Collectively, we play a critical role in the state’s economy, but we cannot continue to grow and thrive in Louisiana’s existing legal climate, which is often noted as one of the worst in the country. That’s bad news for our small businesses, but it is even worse for the workers and families who depend on us.
This Legislative Session, lawmakers will be considering a number of proposals that seek to improve Louisiana’s legal climate by limiting the number of frivolous lawsuits that are filed in our state and increasing citizen access and input into the legal system. I hope you will join me in supporting these much-needed reforms. When there is abuse in the system, we all lose.
Tim Stine is a small business owner and former legislator based in Sulphur.