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Stephen Waguespack, left, president and CEO of the Louisiana Association of Business & Industry, speaks to Troy Wayman, CEO of One Acadiana.

The interest and priority given to tort reform in the Legislature at a time of fiscal crisis in Louisiana, not to mention the personal toll the coronavirus epidemic has had on every citizen, gives an indication how the business of Louisiana is business. This current obsession is remarkable but wrong.

The business lobby in the Legislature never sleeps and never tires of carving out new privileges from which only their clients benefit at the expense of the people. The latest example is the push to create new immunities and limitations of rights that have long existed in our system of laws.

Knowing that a direct assault on people’s rights would never succeed, they pursue these privileges by demonizing “the greedy trial lawyers” as the cause of our woes. Lawyers represent ordinary people injured or killed by the negligence of other people whether they are employed by businesses or not.

I am a trial lawyer and I represent both. Lawyers by definition represent people and businesses in our courts. We are not the people who create a civil dispute. We are the people who facilitate the resolution of these disputes in our courts under the rule of law. We are not the people who injure, maim or kill. We represent the injured, maimed or killed and their adversaries. Corporations get to retain lawyers, too, but that is not enough for them.

Not content with a fair fight in court in a disputed negligence claim, business interests consistently seek to rig the game in the Legislature by changing often ancient rules of law to give themselves unfair advantage.

Negligence is by definition a failure to act reasonably under the circumstances. Immunity from the consequences of negligence removes the rights of the people to reasonable compensation when another person acts negligently and injures or kills.

What the business lobby claims is a “lawsuit culture,” as Stephen Waguespack of LABI likes to call it, is in reality an assault on the rights of Louisianans to protect themselves against the negligence of anyone, including businesses, who harms them in the courts.

So when LABI and the corporate oligarchy who really run the legislature hammer away at the trial lawyers and push for laws exempting themselves from the consequences of their negligence, remember who they are really after: You.

Consider how you would feel if you or a loved one were seriously injured or killed by, say, medical malpractice or a drunken driver or sexual harassment and abuse by employers. Think how you would feel if your right to fair compensation in the courts was suddenly eliminated for the greater profit of business owners and shareholders. Think now before it is too late.

CHIP WAGAR

lawyer

New Orleans

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