What Happens Now That JBE Has Vetoed Tort Reform?

Everybody knows about Gov. John Bel Edwards’ veto Friday of SB 418, the main tort reform bill passed in the 2020 regular session. What’s less well known is he vetoed another bill, SB 395 by Sen. Heather Cloud, which would have imposed some truth-in-advertising requirements on attorneys.

So of course Edwards was going to veto that. His campaigns were funded by the attorneys doing all the advertising. There are at least 78 House votes and 36 Senate votes for the bill, so there’s a reasonably good chance the Legislature will override Edwards’ veto on SB 395.

Edwards also vetoed HB 313, a bill by Re. Thomas Pressly which would have limited courts’ ability to impose liability on businesses organizations for practices conducted by groups of related businesses. But like SB 395, HB 313 had a veto-proof majority at final passage – 92 votes in the House and 26 in the Senate. One would think the Legislature could override Edwards’ veto of that bill.

But then he vetoed SB 418, the main tort reform bill, on Friday.

Governor John Bel Edwards vetoed a tort reform bill that was widely supported by legislators who were hoping lower car insurance premiums in the state. A statement on the Governor’s veto of SB418 said, “…it is neither a compromise nor a mandate to decrease auto insurance rates in Louisiana. Not a single insurance company testified in committee that SB 418 would reduce rates.”

The bill authored by State Senator Kirk Talbot (R) was criticized because the final version included several amendments that were added after reported negotiations between Talbot and Governor Edwards. Shortly after the bill was passed by the legislature and sent to the Governor’s desk, State Insurance Commissioner Jim Donelon told KPEL News that he did not believe the bill would have the intended effect on insurance prices.

At one point SB 418 had enough votes for a veto override. That was before Talbot amended the bill in the conference committee, playing around with changes to the collateral source rule, which is where the real money is in personal injury lawsuits (see here for an explanation of the rule). Talbot threw in a clause that would have allowed injured parties to claim 18 months’ worth of health insurance premiums in lieu of the collateral source rule, in an effort to entice Edwards to sign the bill. But when Talbot amended his bill, he lost five votes in the House, including Republicans Alan Seabaugh, Blake Miguez and Joe Stagni, and SB 418 passed with 29 votes in the Senate, which is enough for a veto override, but only 67 in the House, which is three short.

So the battle now will be either to summon up enough votes to override Edwards’ veto of SB 418, and then pass a bill in the current special session to patch the collateral source rule problem, insuring the patch has enough votes for a veto override, or to start over and pass a new tort reform bill. There are lots of options for the latter moving through the special session, containing different combinations of tort reform remedies.

A whole bunch of them are scheduled to be heard on the House floor today.

It’s too soon to know which ones of these bills will move through the Legislature. We’re told there’s a strategy of passing practically everything to Edwards’ desk and daring him to veto all of them. There are detractors to that strategy; those folks are hoping to solidify enough support for one bill that it wouldn’t matter whether the governor vetoes it, and override the veto to make law.

We’ll have a better idea about this by this afternoon, when we know what the House does with HB 42, HB 43, HB 44, HB 55, HB 56, HB 57, HB 60, and HCR 4. It’ll be an awfully busy day on the tort reform front.



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