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Civil Justice Reform.

Liability exposure is a major concern to individuals, government, professionals and businesses, both large and small. The Legislature has heard those concerns and has brought about some much needed changes to our civil justice system. Still, there is plenty of work left to do to improve our legal climate.  We will fight to hold on to the gains made and to continue improving our civil justice system.

Major Issues.


Government-Sponsored Litigation

The Issue:  The onslaught of government-sponsored lawsuits against businesses creates a damaging precedent of regulation through litigation.

LABI Position:  Oppose any efforts by governmental entities to use litigation against businesses as a means to bypass legislative will.

Reasoning:  Government-sponsored lawsuits give state and local executives the ability to bypass the legislature to achieve regulatory objectives that the majority of the electorate may not support. This sacrifices democracy to the discretion of administrations.


Current Issues.


Abrogation of Contracts: Oppose legislation permitting abrogation of existing contracts.

Appeal Bond Caps: Support legislation setting reasonable limits on suspensive appeal bonds.

Asbestos Bankruptcy Transparency: Support legislation that would require plaintiffs to file with and disclose recovery from asbestos bankruptcy trusts to prevent double recoveries for the same injury and protect defendants’ rights.

Bifurcation of Trials: Support legislation to eliminate the requirement that all parties to a civil suit consent to the separate determination of liability and damages.

Civil Justice Reform: Support legislation to improve the fairness and predictability of the civil justice system in Louisiana. Defend the reforms previously enacted to improve Louisiana laws with emphasis on punitive damages, joint and several liability, as well as other reforms, including, but not limited to product liability, strict liability and motions for summary judgment. Historical reforms were based on the premise that those who cause harm should be held responsible for it and LABI continues to support this belief. Additionally, retroactive application of liability against Louisiana entities and individuals is unacceptable.

Class Action Reform: Support appropriate class action and multi-district litigation legislation.

Coastal Suits (Abusive Litigation Tactics): Support legislation that would limit the ability of governmental entities and trial lawyers from continuing to exploit existing statutes by filing lawsuits on behalf of parties with no standing and creating new causes of actions alleging substantial damages.

Contingency Fee: Oppose legislation that would authorize the attorney general to enter into contingency fee contracts or to employ outside counsel to be paid by the defendants or the state from the proceeds of awards and/or settlements. Support additional legislative oversight. Support efforts to stem the tide of government-sponsored and government authorized litigation.

Direct Action: Support legislation to reform or repeal Louisiana’s unique direct action law and to outlaw presentation of evidence of liability insurance to the jury in a direct action.

Discovery: Support legislation limiting “fishing expeditions” for extraneous information in lawsuits and to ensure protections against discovery, including electronic discovery.

Double Recovery: Support legislation to eliminate double recovery of damages and to limit the recovery of medical expenses to the amount actually paid or to be paid.

Judicial Transparency: Support transparency, ethics and efficiency in the budgeting and operations of Louisiana's courts. The principle of judicial independence as a separate branch of government is an important and historic American tenet, but independence and accountabilty can be promoted simultaneously. We should expect accountability and transparency within the judicial branch as we do from the executive and legislative arms of state government.

Jury Trial Threshold: Support enhancing a citizen’s right to a civil jury trial by reducing or eliminating the current monetary threshold of $50,000, and support the requirement that all elements of an award, including attorney fees, penalties, costs and interest, be included in the existing or any lower threshold.

Judicial Activism: Support legislation that will prohibit the judicial creation and/or recognition of a new cause of action for damages. Oppose legislation creating new causes of action in Louisiana.

Judicial Reform: Support programs and legislation to foster judicial excellence, including, but not limited to, consolidating districts and court functions.

Lawsuit Lending: Support legislation that would provide for reasonable consumer protections in consumer lawsuit loan transactions, including a limit on the maximum loan finance charges allowed in consumer lawsuit loan transactions. Oppose any legislation or other actions which would weaken such consumer protections.

Legacy Lawsuit Reform: Support legislation that sets forth appropriate damages in lawsuits related to oil field remediation.

Offer of Judgment: Support legislation to encourage settlements within a reasonable range and to discourage plaintiffs from overvaluing their cases. Because of the wording of the Code of Civil Procedure article that deals with this subject, if the plaintiff does not win a “judgment” (in other words if the defendant wins) then the offer of judgment is not applicable. This language should be changed so that if the defendant is granted a favorable judgment after the offer of judgment is rejected, defendant is entitled to costs.

Piercing the Corporate Veil: Support legislation that prohibits the application of the single business enterprise theory to extend liability beyond a separate entity. 

Prescription: Oppose efforts to lengthen the time frame in which lawsuits can be filed. Support legislation to re-establish, expand and strengthen prescription and other traditional defenses.

Professional Liability: Support legislation to reform professional liability. Support health care provider and insurer efforts to refine and improve the medical professional liability system, while opposing judicial attempts and unilateral legislative attempts to remove or raise the medical malpractice cap. 

Property and Casualty Insurance: Support measures that improve the availability and affordability of private insurance in a competitive market, and oppose measures that hinder the stability of a private insurance industry. Oppose any erosion to positive laws that have been enacted.

Product Liability: Support legislation that affords reasonable protection to manufacturers and sellers of legal products. Ensure that manufacturers are not unfairly exposed to liability for products they neither made nor sold.

Subsequent Purchaser: Oppose legislation which would create a right of action to assert claims for environmental damages that were caused or sustained prior to acquisition by a purchaser of the property.

Substance Exposure Liability: Support appropriate legislation that ensures that liability based on exposure to allegedly injurious or hazardous substances including, but not limited to, asbestos, mold and silica, is supported by reliable scientific evidence, and that monetary awards for exposure compensate only to the extent of injuries actually sustained. Support appropriate legislation that would establish medical criteria that separate the sick from those who are not and compensate only those who are sick. This legislation would guarantee those who are healthy their day in court if, and when, they become ill. Support legislation to require a plaintiff to provide information substantiating the claim against a specific defendant at the time of pleading.

Venue: Support legislation that sets forth appropriate venue rules in lawsuits, including class action, multi-party, and toxic tort cases.


Ongoing Policy.


Interpretation of Laws: Support efforts to clarify the standard of review of interpretive laws which seek to clarify legislative intent to preserve the separation of powers and support efforts to interpret existing law consistent with legislative intent.

Committee Structure: Work to assure appropriate membership and leadership of legislative committees to which liability-related and property and casualty insurance-related legislation are referred.

Contractual Transfer of Tort Liability: Educate LABI members about liability issues and insurance coverage problems associated with contractual transfer of tort liability. Study possible solutions to problems created by contractual transfer of tort liability.

Expert Testimony: Work with appropriate branches of government to resolve problems arising from the admissibility of certain opinion testimony by witnesses presented as experts.

Liability Insurance: Support legislation to reduce liability costs.

Personal Responsibility: Support legislation to encourage the use of safety devices by allowing introduction of evidence of their non-use/misuse to establish comparative fault. 

Prejudgment Interest: Support efforts to reform prejudgment interest.

Tort Defense: Oppose legislation expanding exposure of individuals, professionals and businesses to new causes of action or unreasonable or excessive judicial awards.


Contacts.


Lauren Chauvin serves as Director of the Civil Justice Reform Council. In this capacity her responsibilities include liability and tort reform issues, as well as property and casualty insurance-related matters.

 

Lauren Chauvin

Director, Civil Justice Reform Council, LABI

laurenc@labi.org
(225) 928-5388

Karen Eddlemon

Chair, Civil Justice Reform Council
The Dow Chemical Company
(985) 783-4990 www.dow.com

Karen.Eddlemon@dow.com