Writer makes case for need to reform 'judicial hellhole'

By Carrie Bradon | Nov 13, 2018

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Following several reports on the poor legal climate in Louisiana, the need is increasing to seek out reform options for the flawed tort system that is costing the state $1.1 billion a year and 15,500 jobs. 

In a recent article posted on the Greater Baton Rouge Business Report, Stephanie Riegel outlined the need for tort reform, including the fact that the American Tort Reform Association recently referred to Louisiana as a “judicial hellhole,” ranking it as the eighth worst in the nation. Reasons for the poor judicial state of Louisiana include frivolous lawsuits, excessive judgments and “freewheeling practice of venue shopping by attorneys for friendly judges,” all which lead to corruption in the courtroom.

Louisiana Lawsuit Abuse Watch and the Louisiana Coalition for Common Sense have both spoken out about the legal climate in Louisiana, specifically the amount of money and jobs the system is costing those who call Louisiana home. 

Jim Harris, president of Louisiana Coalition for Common Sense, often speaks of the billboard attorneys that are all too common in Louisiana as the culture is encouraging individuals to constantly seek out legal rectification of small injuries suffered. 

In addition to the lawsuit culture, Louisiana is at a disadvantage to many of its neighboring states due to its flawed tort system, which is causing deeper economic problems to surface. These economic issues include lack of transportation, poor infrastructure, less-than-stellar public schools and a tax code that Riegel calls “unpredictable.”

Between 2008 and 2014, Riegel writes in the posting, there were more than $8.5 million spent on lobbying and campaigning for contributions. The need for reform is, in Riegel’s opinion, long overdue, as every year without reform is costing not only the wealthy, but also lower-income families. Businesses that have previously operated in Louisiana are also seeking out more business-friendly climates and leaving for states such as Texas and Tennessee, both of which have fewer tort-related costs.

Riegel concludes her article with statistics that face Louisiana, including the fact that Louisiana is the second-most expensive state for auto insurance in the U.S. due to the severity of many of the accidents and bodily injury claims made.

Louisiana also has seen more than a 36 percent increase in minor violations of the Americans with Disability Act between the years of 2011 and 2016, with many repeated claims from individual plaintiffs.

Louisiana’s jury trial threshold is the highest in the country, at $50,000, and Baton Rouge has the second-highest ration for legal ads to other ads, with one of every four ads in the city being for a trial attorney.

Riegel writes that there is certainly a need for legitimate tort claims to be presented before juries, but the immense disproportion between the total tort lawsuits filed and those that are legitimate makes the need for reform apparent. 

The Louisiana Lawsuit Abuse Watch and the Louisiana Coalition for Common Sense have pledged to continue fighting for tort reform.

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Organizations in this Story

Coalition for Common Sense Louisiana Lawsuit Abuse Watch

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