A gubernatorial candidate's billboards that take a jab at plaintiff attorneys has potential to resonate with voters who are sick of Louisiana's litigious culture, according to the head of a special-interest group trying to rid the state of lawsuit abuse.
Republican Eddie Rispone, the founder of ISC Constructors, announced recently that he's begun a five-figure advertising campaign that includes billboards featuring a large image of himself and the tagline, "I bought this billboard so the injury attorneys couldn't." Lana Sonnier Venable, executive director of Louisiana Lawsuit Abuse Watch (LLAW), said the billboards might end up striking a chord with voters.
"Litigation has become a cottage industry in Louisiana and voters are fed up with the proliferation of trial-lawyer billboards advertising 'jackpot justice' across our highways," Venable said in an email interview with Louisiana Record. "It should come as no surprise that this has become an election issue."
Rispone said in a news release that he's put more than 10,000 miles on his truck while making almost 50 campaign stops across the state, and one thing that stood out to him during his travels is "how many yellow personal-injury billboards I’ve seen."
Gubernatorial candidate Eddie Rispone
Venable believes that the proliferation of attorney billboards actually hurts Louisiana's economy.
"Instead of encouraging viable business and employment opportunities for our citizens, these billboards reinforce our reputation as one of the most litigious states in the country," she said.
The Louisiana Motor Transport Association (LMTA), an interest group for the trucking industry, is pushing for state legislation that would put a moratorium on new billboard permits and impose other restrictions on billboards. The group says the goal is to reduce "billboard blight" and distracted driving.
The trucking association says Louisiana has about 2 percent of the nation's roadways, and about 10 percent of the nation's billboards. The group estimates that of the state's roughly 7,000 billboards, about 1,000 of them reportedly are paid for by attorneys. And, of course, many of those attorney billboards seek clients who suffer injuries in crashes with truckers.
Chance McNeely, the executive director of the LMTA, acknowledged that some of the lawyer billboards are aimed at the trucking industry.
"It is certainly true that billboards have been used to cultivate a culture that is bad for our industry," he said. "We are having a disturbing number of fraudulent accidents [reported]. Billboards exist to distract drivers. Trucks are routinely rear-ended and sideswiped by distracted drivers. This bill intends to rein in driver distraction from billboards. Our goal is to improve highway safety and promote beautification on our highways."
Rispone's billboard campaign is launching in the Baton Rouge area but will expand to other parts of the state. Others running for Louisiana governor are U.S. Rep. Ralph Abraham (R-Alto) and the Democratic incumbent, Gov. John Bel Edwards.