BATON ROUGE — Louisiana was once again ranked as a "judicial hellhole" by the American Tort Reform Foundation (ATRF), this year coming in at No. 8 on its national rankings based on what the organization says are "unbalanced courts" and "excessive litigation."
The ATRF issues the report every year in order to spotlight “...places where judges in civil cases systematically apply laws and court procedures in an unfair and unbalanced manner, generally to the disadvantage of defendants,” according to the organization's website.
Specifically, the report, issued last week, cited the ongoing involvement of Gov. John Bel Edwards in lawsuits against energy companies in explaining the ranking.
"It's incredibly frustrating to see Louisiana labeled as a judicial hellhole year after year," Don Briggs, president of the Louisiana Oil and Gas Association, told the Louisiana Record recently. "This unfortunate title is turning away oil and gas investment and has put a sour taste in the mouth of overall business looking to lay roots in our state.”
Louisiana Oil and Gas Association Don Briggs
The report singles out Bel Edwards, stating that "under his leadership, the state has joined forces with six local parishes to file more than 40 lawsuits targeting major providers of oil and gas jobs in Louisiana."
“This summer, the governor added even more fuel to the hellholes fire when he hired one of his top political fundraisers to represent his office and the Louisiana Department of Natural Resources in an anticipated wave of new lawsuits, promising, 'We’re going to be active litigants going forward,'" the report said.
Briggs said Louisiana's governor is the "poster child for trial lawyers."
"The governor encouraged coastal parishes to sue oil and gas companies, and has even gone as far as to contract an outside attorney for future litigation against oil and gas companies," he said.
The ATRF report also said litigation is a "growing industry" in Louisiana, specifically meritless lawsuits against oil and gas companies.
"Of particular concern is the seemingly endless array of lawsuits targeting energy companies with allegations of environmental harms," the report states. "Current litigation concerns include thousands of legacy oilfield claims and 'public nuisance' claims alleging groundwater contamination with methyl tertiary butyl ether, or MTBE, a gasoline additive once mandated by federal law.”
Briggs called on state leaders to address the issues that keep landing Louisiana on the judicial hellhole list.
“Our state leaders must realize the tremendous benefits the oil and gas industry brings to the state, and put an end to the frivolous litigation," he said.