The Civil Justice Reform Act of 2020 has been called the most relevant package of legal reforms in Louisiana since the 1990s. People writing to your newspaper and other venues have created unreasonable expectations and are saying the reforms failed because insurance rates have increased in the last year. Insurance rates in Louisiana have increased for a number of reasons, none of them that could have been affected by the legislation.
It’s not like you hit the brakes and the car stops.
This legislation reduced the jury trial threshold from $50,000 to $10,000, but jury trials ceased for nearly a year during the pandemic. It also repealed the seat belt gag order, which would allow jurors to consider evidence of a plaintiff’s failure to wear a seat belt in a car accident. The reform has gone untested due to the lack of jury trials. In addition, it reformed direct action, which limits the discussion on insurance coverage before a jury. Again, to measure the impact of a law, it must be put into action over the course of several years. In 2020 and into 2021, the Louisiana court system was all but shut down, cases were delayed, a backlog now exists, and criminal cases are taking priority. There were unprecedented weather-related events, including four hurricanes, ice storms and several floods in various parts of the state.
Insurance rates are based on certainty, and since March 2020, we have seen nothing but uncertainty in the state. This legislation was a first step in making the judicial system more predictable. There are multiple factors that made 2020 unique for the legal system in Louisiana, and we are just now beginning to see the light at the end of the tunnel. The Civil Justice Reform Act became effective Jan. 1; give the reform time to make the impact the Legislature, as your representatives, believed it could.
communications director, Louisiana Coalition for Common Sense