WASHINGTON, D.C.—Louisiana’s lawsuit climate is the second worst in the country at number 49 out of 50 according to a new national survey released today by the U.S. Chamber Institute for Legal Reform (ILR). The 2015 Lawsuit Climate Survey: Ranking the States found that Louisiana ranked last nationally for the fairness of its juries and for the impartiality and competence of its judges.
According to the survey, 75 percent of senior company attorneys surveyed say a state’s lawsuit environment is likely to impact important business decisions at their company, including where to locate or expand. That is an 18 percent increase from eight years ago, and an all-time high.
“More business leaders than ever have identified a state’s lawsuit climate as a significant factor in determining their growth and expansion plans,” said Lisa A. Rickard, president of ILR. “If the Louisiana governor and legislature want to attract businesses and build the state’s economy, they need to pass common sense reforms of the state’s judiciary.”
Louisiana’s lawsuit climate ranked only above West Virginia nationwide, and below every bordering state including: Arkansas (41), Mississippi (43), and Texas (40). New Orleans/Orleans Parish was also named the fifth worst city or county nationally for the fairness and reasonableness of its legal environment. As a state, Louisiana has never ranked higher than number 47 since the survey began in 2002.
Despite laws passed by the state legislature and rulings by the state Supreme Court to curb the practice, Louisiana Attorney General James “Buddy” Caldwell continues to award contracts to represent the state to private plaintiffs’ firms that have donated to his political campaigns.
Furthermore, the Southeast Louisiana Flood Protection Authority-East continues to appeal a lawsuit against dozens of oil and gas companies accusing them of causing coastal erosion that a federal judge dismissed in February because it failed to make a valid claim. Indiscriminate “legacy” lawsuits against oil and gas producers over alleged environmental damage also prompted Louisiana to pass a law in 2014 to curb the practice.
Additionally, judges, not juries, decide many lawsuits in Louisiana because the state only permits a jury trial for civil claims seeking $50,000 or more. That is the highest threshold in the nation and more than three times higher than the second highest state, Maryland.
“The legislature should bring Louisiana’s threshold rules into the mainstream, and rein in plaintiffs’ lawyers shopping for favorable court rooms,” Rickard said.
In tandem with the survey, ILR today released 101 Ways to Improve State Legal Systems, listing key legal reforms that states can adopt to improve their lawsuit climates. ILR also launched a national media campaign to raise awareness about the importance of a fair and balanced lawsuit system.
Harris Poll, a global polling firm, conducted the 2015 Lawsuit Climate Survey through telephone and online interviews between March 9 and June 24, 2015. The respondents were more than 1,200 general counsels and senior attorneys or leaders in companies with annual revenues of at least $100 million.
ILR seeks to promote civil justice reform through legislative, political, judicial, and educational activities at the national, state, and local levels.
The U.S. Chamber of Commerce is the world’s largest business federation representing the interests of more than 3 million businesses of all sizes, sectors, and regions, as well as state and local chambers and industry associations.