BATON ROUGE – Louisiana Lawsuit Abuse Watch (LLAW) believes meritless lawsuits in the state are hurting businesses and taxpayers.
"As evidenced by the sheer number of billboards along any Louisiana highway, litigation has become a cottage industry in our state and unfounded lawsuits are on the rise," Lana Sonnier Venable, the executive director of LLAW, said in an interview with the Louisiana Record. "It’s no wonder that the Pelican State has long maintained a reputation as one of the worst places in the country to be sued."
Venable said "billboard attorneys" harm the economy.
"From meritless coastal lawsuits that cost hard-working Louisianans jobs to unsubstantiated claims against small businesses that hurt their bottom lines, these 'billboard attorneys' are a drain on our already struggling economy," Venable said.
Louisiana Lawsuit Abuse Watch Executive Director Lana Sonnier Venable Photo courtesy of Louisiana Lawsuit Abuse Watch
Unfounded lawsuits hurt businesses and generate exorbitant fees for attorneys, Venable said.
"These fees and large plaintiff awards drive up the cost of doing business," Venable said. "Subsequently, businesses often must pass these costs on to their customers in order to survive. The bottom line is that customers wind up paying the cost of litigation through higher prices for products and services."
Venable said Louisiana has higher auto insurance rates, a lack of access to jury trials for certain civil cases and decades-old claims against the energy industry that deter investment, all of which harm Louisiana taxpayers.
Venable said politically powerful plaintiffs’ lawyers and environmentalists are leading an aggressive, high-profile legal attack targeting Louisiana’s energy industry over production activities conducted decades ago.
"Even though these companies provide thousands of quality jobs for hard-working Louisianans and millions in tax dollars for the state coffers, Gov. (John Bel) Edwards signed off on the state’s involvement with six local parishes to file more than 40 lawsuits targeting major providers of oil and gas jobs in Louisiana," Venable said. "The administration contends that these suits are necessary to force the companies to restore wetlands they allegedly damaged during exploration and production activities dating back to the 1930s."
Louisana is currently ranked eighth on the Judicial Hellholes list, which ranks states by how their legal systems are.
LLAW's previous executive director, Melissa Landry, said last month in Lousiana Watchdog that lawsuits against oil and gas companies for the erosion of the state's coastline were harming the economy.
The energy industry claims gas and oil exploration was done with permits and that because their permits were already authorized, the state had determined the benefits outweighed the potential risks.
Louisiana Watchdog notes that the state's coastline is losing land the size of a football field every 48 minutes due to the erosion. It claims that coastal parishes will be underwater by 2100.