Rep. Clay Schnexnayder, Speaker of the House

Rep. Clay Schexnayder, Speaker of the House

Louisiana Lawsuit Abuse Watch applauds the Legislature on its overwhelming passage of common sense legal reform legislation during the recent special session. Bipartisan passage of Speaker Clay Schexnayder’s HB 57 would not have occurred without thoughtful discussion and compromise on both sides of the issue.

This legislation, now awaiting Gov. John Bel Edwards’ signature, enacts the Civil Justice Reform Act of 2020 and represents a significant step forward for Louisiana. Provisions include reforming direct action by limiting information provided about insurance coverage to jurors during trial, repealing the seat belt gag rule by making evidence of seat belt use allowable, lowering the highest-in-the-nation jury trial threshold from $50,000 to $10,000, and creating a new statute addressing the much-debated collateral source rule only allowing evidence of medical bills actually paid to the jury while allowing judges the discretion to award a maximum of 40 percent of the difference between the amount billed for medical expenses and the actual amount paid following the verdict.

While lowering auto insurance rates for all Louisiana drivers is an important goal of this legislation, much more can be accomplished.

Meaningful legal reform is long overdue in Louisiana. This legislation will help insulate taxpayers from the hidden costs of lawsuit abuse, which currently is about $4,000 per year for each Louisiana family.

An improved legal climate will also make Louisiana more competitive when it comes to attracting new jobs and economic opportunities, as well as expanding its existing business and industry base. The state depends on logging, agriculture and petrochemical industries and affiliated businesses to keep its economy rolling.

These reforms are more critical now than ever as both families and businesses work to rebuild Louisiana’s struggling economy.

Voters sent a clear message last fall by electing many new legislators who ran on a platform to fix this broken legal system. Louisianans are tired of accepting the status quo and substituting “jackpot justice” for real economic development and quality jobs. The message was clearly not lost on the Legislature.

Governor Edwards has indicated he will sign the bill. Voters across the state want a more prosperous future for our families and businesses. It is time to swap frivolous lawsuits for real opportunity for all Louisianans.

Lana Venable is executive director of Louisiana Lawsuit Abuse Watch.

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