Louisiana’s lawsuit climate is the second worst in the country at number 49 out of 50 according to a new national survey released today by the U.S. Chamber Institute for Legal Reform (ILR).
The 2015 Lawsuit Climate Survey: Ranking the States found that Louisiana ranked last nationally for the fairness of its juries and for the impartiality and competence of its judges.
Louisiana’s lawsuit climate ranked only above West Virginia nationwide, and below every bordering state including: Arkansas (41), Mississippi (43), and Texas (40).
New Orleans/Orleans Parish was also named the fifth worst city or county nationally for the fairness and reasonableness of its legal environment. As a state, Louisiana has never ranked higher than number 47 since the survey began in 2002.
“Some courts in Louisiana, and the New Orleans region in particular, have certainly earned this negative reputation for having biased judges, excessive litigation, outsized damage awards and a legal process that often allows frivolous claims to proceed,” Melissa Landry, executive director of Louisiana Lawsuit Abuse Watch (LLAW), said in a statement.
Despite laws passed by the state legislature and rulings by the state Supreme Court to curb the practice, Louisiana Attorney General James “Buddy” Caldwell continues to award contracts to represent the state to private plaintiffs’ firms that have donated to his political campaigns.
Furthermore, the Southeast Louisiana Flood Protection Authority-East continues to appeal a lawsuit against dozens of oil and gas companies accusing them of causing coastal erosion that a federal judge dismissed in February because it failed to make a valid claim. Indiscriminate “legacy” lawsuits against oil and gas producers over alleged environmental damage also prompted Louisiana to pass a law in 2014 to curb the practice.
Additionally, judges, not juries, decide many lawsuits in Louisiana because the state only permits a jury trial for civil claims seeking $50,000 or more. That is the highest threshold in the nation and more than three times higher than the second highest state, Maryland.
In tandem with the survey, ILR today released 101 Ways to Improve State Legal Systems, listing key legal reforms that states can adopt to improve their lawsuit climates. ILR also launched a national media campaign to raise awareness about the importance of a fair and balanced lawsuit system.
Harris Poll, a global polling firm, conducted the 2015 Lawsuit Climate Survey through telephone and online interviews between March 9 and June 24, 2015. The respondents were more than 1,200 general counsels and senior attorneys or leaders in companies with annual revenues of at least $100 million.