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Letter: The high cost of lawsuits

Louisiana’s legal climate has been ranked the worst in the United States and we have been labeled as the fifth worst “Judicial Hellhole” in the country. As reported by Louisiana Lawsuit Abuse Watch (LLAW), unfounded lawsuits hurt Louisianans and are generating exorbitant fees for trial lawyers.  These fees, coupled with large plaintiff awards, are driving up the cost of living and doing business in Louisiana.  You would expect your insurance company –- and any other business – would be forced to pass these costs along to their customers in order to survive. The bottom line is that you and I are paying for litigation through higher prices for products and services, including auto insurance.  

Lawsuit abuse costs totaled $429 billion nationwide in 2016, with costs in Louisiana among the highest of any state.  Families and businesses in Louisiana were forced to pay nearly $7 BILLION in expenses related to tort litigation in 2016.  That was equivalent to more than $4,000 for every Louisiana family, translating to more than 15,500 lost jobs and a real impact on all major industry groups. 

Legal reform in Louisiana would generate economic benefits by creating more efficiency, fairness and predictability in the civil justice system.  States that have implemented reforms have seen improved judicial efficiency and measurable improvement in economic performance.

I previously noted the lack of affordable automobile insurance, costing every Louisiana family thousands of dollars each year.  It was very disappointing to see the trial lawyers on Louisiana State Senate Judiciary A Committee kill HB 372, a critical civil justice reform bill aimed at reducing insurance rates.   Once again, trial lawyers win and Louisiana families pay. If that bothers you, contact Senator Ryan Gatti of Benton, Senator John Milkovich of Shreveport and Senator Jay Luneau of Alexandria through the Louisiana State Senate website at www.senate.legis.state.la.us.com.

Another issue that has received a lot of attention during this legislative session is statewide pervasive trial attorney advertising. A newly released report by the American Tort Reform Association found that the trial bar spent $2.6 million on 50,000 ads in northwest Louisiana during the last half of 2018. For context, this amounts to 16 times the number of ads viewers saw for banks. Trial lawyers also outspent those running for office, with 19 legal services ads airing for every state or local campaign ad.

Lawsuit abuse comes from multiple directions.  Governor Edwards (up for reelection on October 12) told our coastal parishes to sue oil companies that had lawfully operated in those parishes or the state would sue those companies on the parishes’ behalf.  One only needs to look at the private practice trial lawyers who have supported his campaign to realize who is poised to gain massive payouts at the expense of these parishes and their hard-working residents. These kinds of lawsuits are not the answer when it comes to restoring our coast. A collaborative approach with all entities working together is the best way to achieve sustainable, long-term progress. Trial lawyers should not benefit at the expense of industries that employ thousands and give back to our communities. 

I contend the above negative news can be overcome, bad policy can be changed, and I predict much better days are ahead for Louisiana. For your information, Louisiana Lawsuit Abuse Watch is a non-partisan, nonprofit, citizen watchdog group dedicated to stopping lawsuit abuse.  I recommend you view their good work at www.llaw.org. 

Robert M. Mills, Benton, LA

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