This week marks Lawsuit Abuse Awareness Week, observed by Louisiana Lawsuit Abuse Watch and other grassroots organizations across the country that support civil justice reform.

This annual event provides an opportunity to inform citizens about the costs and consequences of lawsuit abuse. All Louisianans can be part of the solution by serving on a jury when called, by understanding their legal rights, and by making smart choices when hiring a lawyer or considering filing a lawsuit.

Our civil justice system exists to provide a means for legitimate resolution of disputes for those injured by the acts of behavior of others. While there is a proper role for good regulations that protect the public and for lawsuits that enforce them, our system of checks and balances breaks down when this system is abused. We all must be smart legal consumers and call out abuses of this system.

Louisiana made considerable progress in improving the state’s legal climate during the 2020 regular and first special legislative sessions, but we have only begun to scratch the surface. Lack of transparency in our judicial system, coastal lawsuits that threaten our economy and staged accidents resulting in unfounded lawsuits are prime examples of critical issues that must be addressed. Like other parts of the country, we also face a potential onslaught of lawsuits in the wake of COVID-19.

The U.S. Chamber’s Institute for Legal Reform ranked Louisiana’s legal climate second-worst in the nation in its 2019 Lawsuit Climate Survey, and the American Tort Reform Foundation ranked Louisiana was ranked the fourth-worst Judicial Hellhole in the U.S. in its 2019-20 report.

The costs of lawsuit abuse in Louisiana are among the highest in the nation, resulting in a hidden “tort tax” of more than $4,000 for every Louisiana household. A 2019 study conducted by Texas’ The Perryman Group found the total current impact of excessive tort costs on the Louisiana economy results in estimated losses of $1.9 billion in annual output (gross product) annually. This amounted to about 19,800 lost jobs and yearly fiscal losses estimated at $100.3 million in state revenues and $84 million to local governments last year.

We all pay the price when our legal system is abused. The goal of Lawsuit Abuse Awareness Week is to put a spotlight on abusive lawsuits and questionable legal practices — and to inform Louisianans of the cost lawsuit abuse imposes on all of us. It also focuses on personal responsibility and reminds us of the pivotal role consumers play in ending lawsuit abuse and ensuring courts are used for justice, not greed.

LANA VENABLE

director, Louisiana Lawsuit Abuse Watch

Baton Rouge