WASHINGTON, D.C. — It's official: Louisiana has the worst legal climate in the country.
A parody video of chef Gordon Ramsay – sponsored by Faces of Lawsuit Abuse that accompanied the U.S. Chamber Institute for Legal Reform survey “2017 Lawsuit Climate Survey: Ranking States” conducted by Harris Poll – is a bit dramatic, but still on point, according to Dawn Starns, Louisana state director of the National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB).
“It is unfortunate that Louisiana finds itself ranked at another top of the worst list and it seems we can’t make any real progress on tort reform,” Starns told the Louisiana Record in an email interview.
Starns, an activist, lobbyist and former executive director of the Capitol Region Legislative Delegation and CAP PAC LLC, oversees the largest small-business association in Louisiana, with a noted 4,300 dues-paying members. Familiar with the negative press from the past, Starns said this survey illustrates "what we talk about all the time with policymakers, that a bad legal climate is bad for business."
"We advocate on behalf of our members for legal reform because we know that all it takes just one frivolous lawsuit to force a small-business owner to close their doors permanently," she said.
Starns said even though a dark cloud looms over Louisiana's legal system, she still has hope.
"The silver lining is that this data is black and white," she said. "It gives the business community a way to illustrate why we must begin to pass reform measures. The upcoming legislative session is a general subject one where potential reforms could be passed. We would love to see some of our pro-small-business-friendly legislators take up the torch of legal reform."
The Lousiana Record, which is owned by the U.S. Chamber Institute for Legal Reform, reported on the matter Sept. 11, with Lisa A. Rickard, president of the institute, saying Louisiana’s lawsuit climate has hit rock bottom.
“The state’s long history of litigation abuse and the questionable integrity of its courts hurt everyone by holding back more robust job growth and investment,” Rickard said.
Louisiana Lawsuit Abuse Watch (LLAW) and the Coalition for Common Sense (CCS) advocates also commented in a press release. LLAW Executive Director Melissa Landry said litigation is a growing industry in Louisiana.
“From problematic venue laws, to widespread judicial misconduct, a lack of transparency in asbestos litigation and trust claims, broad misuse of consumer protection laws, and the highest jury trial threshold in the nation—there are many troubling aspects of our legal system that contribute to the perception that it is difficult, if not impossible, for some to get a fair shake in our courts,” she said.
CCS Director Jim Harris said the long-term problem has stained the state, giving the state “a terrible reputation for decades, and it has only gotten worse in recent years.” He said the matter is in the hands of state leaders at this point.
“Until the governor and state lawmakers tackle these issues head on and enact meaningful legal reform, we will continue to be pegged as a judicial hellhole and new business and economic opportunities will continue to pass us by,” he said.
Starns said the NFIB plans to protect its members from frivolous lawsuits by continuing to advocate "for public policy that makes it easier for small business to own, operate and grow."
"Often times, the only line of defense small-business owners have against bad public policy that creates this sort of bad legal environment, is NFIB and our lobbying and awareness efforts as well as the work of our legal foundation," she said. "While we can’t stop frivolous lawsuits from happening; we can lobby against policies that make them an attractive option for bad actors."
She added that the NFIB will continue to fight for state legal reform "and ask the members of the Louisiana Legislature to take a good look at this report and others and work with the business community to find solutions."