Louisiana voters could end up decimating an entire industry if they make the wrong choice next month between incumbent Gov. John Bel Edwards, a Democrat, and businessman Eddie Rispone, a Republican. That’s if you take Baton Rouge-based personal injury lawyer Kenny Hooks at his word.
“Your job and your profession may literally depend on the results of the Nov. 16 election,” said Hooks in an email to his fellow trial lawyers.
Hooks’ use of the word “literally” in describing how dependent his industry is on Edwards is telling.
“If you don’t believe me, call any attorney in Texas,” Hooks went on to write. “Or should I say, call an insurance agent or used car salesman in Texas who used to practice law.”
What an awful thought! Fewer personal injury lawyers in the state; a potential end to Louisiana’s reputation as a “judicial hellhole.” Edwards losing could also adversely impact the billboard advertising industry or daytime television ad sales.
“If the drastic tort reform proposed by the opponents of Gov. Edwards are enacted by law, the legal community will shrink dramatically, a fact that will impact all of us,” warned Hooks.
Hooks urged his fellow lawyers to give $5,000 to the Edwards campaign. He also called on them to give as much as they can to Gumbo PAC after they’ve maxed out their donation to Edwards. Gumbo PAC is a pro-Edwards political action committee mostly funded by trial lawyers.
It is true that if meaningful tort reform opposed by Edwards and supported by Rispone passed, the state’s personal injury lawyers could make less. Some of them might be forced to sell one of their vacation homes.
Hooks concluded his desperate-sounding email to his fellow lawyers: “[A]sk every employee, client, friend and family member (and get them to ask others) to vote for Governor Edwards.”
But what Hooks forget to mention is tort reform would level the legal playing field and lower auto insurance rates in Louisiana. Tort reform would also shrink the size of that big check TV lawyers are always promising. Which is bad for them, since a considerable portion of those checks typically go to the trial lawyer.
The Louisiana litigation frenzy has led to ridiculously high auto insurance rates, a report on Fox 8 News in New Orleans reported. It’s especially true in Baton Rouge, where premiums average more than $3,300 a year, and in New Orleans, where the average premium costs $4,000 per year.
Compare auto liability lawsuits filed per 100,000 residents in New Orleans to other major cities. In Austin, lawyers filed 169, in Miami 110, in Houston 234, and in Dallas, they filed 275 per 100,000 residents. In New Orleans, trial lawyers filed 853 auto liability lawsuits per 100,000 residents in 2018. No wonder premiums are close to double the national average in New Orleans. The good news: Some major insurers have been able to reduce premiums, because of more competition for business.
Louisiana’s judicial hellhole has become a heavenly paradise for the state’s personal injury lawyers. The last thing they want is for Rispone to get elected and ruin their party and end their gravy train. Edwards often brags about putting people before politics. But by opposing tort reform he clearly puts his big-donor trial lawyer friends before people.
Edwards’ resistance to tort reform not only causes high auto insurance premiums. His enthusiasm for litigation, especially when it comes to targeting the oil industry, has helped cause Louisiana’s economy to stagnate while the rest of the country enjoys unprecedented prosperity. We were the only state in the nation to lose jobs last year.
The difference between the two gubernatorial candidates for governor could not be clearer. On one side, the business community and overburdened motorists paying sky-high premiums are hoping for relief if Rispone is elected. On the other side, personal injury lawyers are pulling for an Edwards victory and the maintaining of the status quo of a lawsuit friendly state.
Take away financial support from trial lawyers and Edwards wouldn’t have much in his campaign war chest. But can you blame lawyers like Hooks for financially supporting Edwards? It means so much to their bottom line.
“You can sit by and watch and hope others protect your interest, or you can be proactive and join the fight,” Hooks wrote.
Email Dan Fagan at email@example.com.