Two groups pushing legislation that would restrict how civil lawsuits are filed in Louisiana announced Monday the launch of a campaign to draw attention to what they call frivolous lawsuits.
Louisiana Lawsuit Abuse Watch and Coalition for Common Sense launched an advertising campaign to publicize a poll they say shows public support for their initiatives and sent questionnaires to put legislative candidates on record regarding the issue.
The two groups released a poll of 600 Louisiana voters that shows 83 percent said “lawsuit reform” was necessary and 85 percent felt advertising by attorneys encourages people to file lawsuits.
The poll shows voters are concerned about the impact of Louisiana’s “litigation lottery” on the state’s economy, said Melissa Landry, executive director of The Law Abuse Watch, in Baton Rouge.
The self-described group “dedicated to stopping lawsuit abuse” teamed with The Coalition for Common Sense to spend $70,000 for radio commercials and online ads to publicize the poll results and raise awareness on the issue.
The Coalition is a group of trade associations that represent manufacturers, refineries, chemical plants, doctors, insurance companies and railroads, among others.
“This is not a solution in search of problem,” Landry said. “It’s time to make Louisiana competitive again and create jobs by moving the legal system back toward the mainstream.”
Leah Guerry, the head of a Baton Rouge organization composed primarily of Louisiana lawyers who have a trial practice, said later Monday that she had not seen the poll, but often such efforts ask questions that mislead people who are not familiar with the judicial system.
“I’m against frivolous lawsuits too,” said Guerry, chief executive officer of the Louisiana Association for Justice in Baton Rouge.
Lawsuits found by the courts to have been without merit are rare, while the solutions being forwarded restrict a victim’s ability to seek compensation from those responsible for the injuries, she said.
“When you’re wrongly injured or disabled you should care whether you have access to the courts,” Guerry said.
The two groups also plan to pursue legislation when lawmakers convene for the 2012 general legislative session scheduled to begin March 12.
According to lobbyist Jim Harris, the legislative proposals would require a victim’s petition for damages include more specifics about when and how injuries were incurred, require the filing of lawsuits in the parish where the injury occurred and more timely reports of any payments received from trust funds. Many asbestos manufacturers have gone out of business and make payments to claimants through bankruptcy trust funds.
Harris is listed as coordinator for The Coalition for Common Sense. The coalition’s Baton Rouge headquarters is at his offices of Harris DeVille & Associates.
Southern Media & Opinion Research Inc., of Baton Rouge, conducted the poll of 24 questions for Harris DeVille. The survey was done over the telephone between July 26 and July 30.
About 74 percent of those questioned were 50 years of age or older and 44.6 percent said they agreed with Republican positions more often, the survey stated. The poll reported a 4 percent margin of error.