It’s an annual tradition and not something to be proud of. But despite efforts at tort reform in 2020, which may ultimately bear fruit but not this year, we’re on one of the worst lists to be on.
A press release from the American Tort Reform Foundation…
Louisiana is among the worst “Judicial Hellholes®” in the country once again, according to the latest report from the American Tort Reform Foundation (ATRF).
In its 20th anniversary edition of the annual report, ATRF says Louisiana’s never-ending coastal litigation and Governor John Bel Edwards’s (D) penchant for wielding his veto pen to axe civil justice reforms are partially to blame.
Louisiana is ranked the sixth worst Judicial Hellhole® per the 2021-2022 rankings, marking its ninth consecutive year as a Judicial Hellhole®. This summer, the state was named an “Everlasting Judicial Hellhole” due to its persistent presence among the worst tort systems in the nation.
“Louisiana is no stranger to being ranked a Judicial Hellhole,” American Tort Reform Association President Tiger Joyce said. “While the Governor vetoed dozens of bills this year, one would have specifically addressed the scourge of misleading trial lawyer ads that are so rampant in the Pelican State. Coastal lawsuits continued to drag on in the state, as well as concerning acts of misconduct in the judiciary.”
Senate Bill 43, sponsored by Senator Barrow Peacock (R-Shreveport-Bossier), focused on limiting misleading advertising practices and solicitations for legal services. It passed the legislature on a bipartisan vote but was ultimately vetoed by the governor.
ATRF reports that Louisiana accounts for a disproportionate amount of legal services TV ads as well as spending on those ads – 4% of all spending and 5.6% of ads in one quarter – considering that the state makes up less than 1.5% of the nation’s population.
“Widespread trial lawyer advertising signals to businesses that they’re in a Judicial Hellhole, where they’re more likely to get sued,” Joyce said. “These ads drive away businesses who may want to invest in Louisiana as well as push those away who have faced the unfortunate reality of their state’s legal climate.”
Further contributing to Louisiana’s climate of lawsuit abuse as well as high auto insurance costs in the state is a federal investigation into a years-long staged auto accident scheme. Seven more defendants were indicted in September for alleged involvement in schemes seeking to defraud trucking companies and their insurers.
Those accused of staging accidents were compensated for referring the defendants to attorneys who would handle their cases. Subsequently, these defendants received treatment from doctors and other healthcare providers as directed by their lawyers. Through these lawyers, the defendants ultimately secured settlements from insurance companies who provided coverage for the commercial carriers.
“We commend Louisiana law enforcement officials for pursuing the wrongdoers,” Joyce said. “Hopefully, this will deter future individuals from engaging in similar behavior because they know that they will be met with significant civil and criminal penalties if they do.”
Coastal litigation is yet another downside to Louisiana’s civil justice system, ATRF says.
“Coastal lawsuits target Louisiana’s critical energy industry, stretch the law far beyond its intent, ignore critical facts, and involve private lawyers in a space meant for democratically elected decision makers who are accountable to the public,” Joyce said. “Rather than allowing elected officials to create policies that benefit the public, these private lawsuits reinforce the state’s litigious reputation, drive up business costs, and kill jobs for thousands of hard-working Louisianans.”
There have been 43 cases filed by six coastal parishes and the City of New Orleans since 2013, which continue with no resolution in sight. ATRF says the question of jurisdiction remains at issue and that in August, the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans partially reversed an earlier decision to keep lawsuits filed by Cameron and Plaquemines Parishes in state court. The 5th Circuit remanded the cases back to federal district court to determine if the companies were acting under the authority of a federal wartime agency.
“This decision has implications far beyond these two parishes,” Joyce said. “At issue is whether the hundreds of oil companies named in the suit can be held responsible for allegedly contributing to decades of coastal erosion and wetlands losses.”
A recent study showed that the lawsuits resulted in a loss of more than 2,000 jobs in the state’s oil and gas industry, equating to $70 million per year in lost earnings.
“Even though energy companies provide thousands of quality jobs for hard-working Louisianans and millions in tax dollars for state coffers, these baseless lawsuits continue to move forward under Gov. Edwards and his high-paid trial attorney friends,” Joyce said.
ATRF says Louisiana continues to lose jobs and revenue thanks to high civil courts costs. Residents pay a $451 “tort tax” each year due to the costs of excessive lawsuits.
The current total impact of these costs results in $3.87 billion in lost economic activity and 22,550 jobs lost.
Louisiana is one of eight Judicial Hellholes® in the 2021-2022 report:
- New York
- The Georgia Supreme Court
- The Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas and the Pennsylvania Supreme Court
- Cook, Madison, and St. Clair Counties, Illinois
- City of St. Louis
- South Carolina’s Asbestos Litigation
Judicial Hellholes® are deemed the most unjust local courts and state civil justice systems in the country. Read the full report at JudicialHellholes.org.
You know it’s bad when most of the places on the list are cities or counties or even courts, and Louisiana’s one of only three whole states on the list.
And when you’re 1.5 percent of the nation’s population and 5.6 percent of its trial lawyer ads on TV.
There’s a scene toward the end of the classic monster movie Reign of Fire, starring Matthew McConaughey and Christian Bale, when the dragons who have sprung up out of the ground to consume the earth have wrought so much destruction and killed off so much of the planet’s people and animals that they’ve got nothing left to eat but each other.
Watch anything on local TV in Louisiana – the news, a Saints game, a sitcom or whatever – and you get the feeling that’s where Louisiana is economically. There aren’t hardly any businesses left. Just the lawyers.
This is not how prosperity happens. It’s how outmigration happens. We need radical changes here. The question is whether we have enough people interested in making them.