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February 29th, 2012

New Study Boosts Case Against Louisiana’s ‘Legacy’ Lawsuits

A newly released LSU study quantifies the considerable toll that so-called “legacy” lawsuits are taking on Louisiana’s economy generally, and its conventional oil and gas industry in particular.

In ATRA’s ongoing effort to bring attention to Louisiana’s costly legacy lawsuit racket, we last week posted video of a plaintiffs’ ‘expert’ teaching Gulf Coast personal injury lawyers how to exploit the law and corrupt the civil justice system.  Now, with the addition of this new study from LSU, the evidence against legacy lawsuits is incontrovertible.  Louisiana policymakers must act to protect their critically important energy industry and the jobs it supports. 

As noted in ATRA’s 2011/2012 Judicial Hellholes® report released last December, legacy lawsuits are usually filed in rural parish courthouses, seeking millions or even billions in damages for alleged environmental harm as a result of conventional, onshore oil and gas drilling activity.  A case can remain unresolved for years, sometimes a decade, without any hard evidence of contamination being proffered or cleanup undertaken.  And rather than eventually risk a runaway jury verdict, the defendant or defendants often choose to be more safely extorted by settling out of court. 

Meanwhile, according to the LSU data, during the past eight years legacy lawsuits have reduced Louisiana’s economic output by more than $10 billion, prevented the creation of 30,000 jobs that would have cumulatively paid $1.5 billion in wages.

Though a 2006 reform law in Louisiana sought to obligate a significant portion of monies paid from these lawsuits to environmental remediation, cagey Bayou plaintiffs’ lawyers often manage, with the blessings of both parish and appellate judges, to use the law unfairly for their own gain.

The “red-handed” video ATRA posted last week comprises roughly two, very telling minutes excerpted from what was approximately a half-hour-long presentation by W.D. Griffin, a consultant and past plaintiffs’ expert witness, to a gathering at the South Texas College of Law, Energy Law Institute for Attorneys and Landmen in 2006 when relevant Louisiana law changed.

The get-rich-quick schemes of shameless trial lawyers are nothing new.  But at a time when international tensions are driving oil prices higher and there’s a national, bipartisan consensus about the need to boost domestic energy production, it’s impossible to understand why Louisiana’s policymakers simply look the other way while a few parasitic trial lawyers are hobbling one of the state’s most important industries.

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