Acadiana Business

La.'s legal climate ranked 49th in nation

by Heather Miller

According to a report from Gannett's Mike Hasten, a national business survey places Louisiana near the bottom when it comes to perceptions about the state's civil courts. The Bayou State's "notorious reputation" for excessive civil verdicts and an "unfair judiciary" place Louisiana at No. 49 in the country for its civil court climate.

According to a report from Gannett's Mike Hasten, the near-bottom ranking for Louisiana stems from a national business survey conducted by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce's Institute for Legal Reform, which surveyed 1,482 attorneys and business leaders about their thoughts on Louisiana's state and local civil courts.

It's worth noting, however, that the survey reflects perceptions about the court system in 2010, and the state has since made big changes to the way it handles "legacy" lawsuits that deal with oil and gas companies and the clean-up of contaminated land:

The key issues in the survey were tort reform, caps and limits on damages, timeliness of decisions, eliminating unnecessary lawsuits, limits on discovery, fairness of juries, judicial competence, appointed vs. elected judges, limiting punitive damages, limitations on class action lawsuits, "loser pays" and limiting the cost of discovery.

The survey notes that Louisiana doesn't allow punitive damages except in rare cases but that didn't elevate the score. Neither did other changes adopted since 1996, when the Louisiana Legislature passed one of the nation's most aggressive tort reform acts under Mike Foster's tenure as governor.

"Despite positive lawmaking, Louisiana is still notorious for excessive verdicts, loose class-certification standards and an unfair judiciary," said Lisa A Rickard, president of the Institute for Legal Reform.
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