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March 27th, 2012

Civil Justice Reform Package Making It’s Way through the Louisiana Legislature

As the spring session heats up, the Louisiana legislature has the opportunity to adopt civil justice reform measures that would drastically change the way latent disease claims are handled in court.  According to Melissa Landry, the executive director of Louisiana Lawsuit Abuse Watch, the proposed legislation, which has a good chance of passing, would help the clogged court system more easily sift through frivolous claims and get to “legitimate” ones.

The package of bills, sponsored by Representative Neil Abramson (D), is currently pending in the House Committee on Civil Law and Procedure.  The first bill, H.B. 477, would require a plaintiff bringing an asbestos or silica exposure claim to disclose all claims against a trust or fund at least 180 days before the trial. 

H.B. 438 would require certain information, including the name of each defendant, time period, location and types of products for each alleged exposure, to be included in petitions concerning latent diseases.  This is straight forward and simple information that is required by many other states.  The bill also provides that anyone 70 years or older with a medical condition keeping them from living beyond six months can be considered to have exigent circumstances.

Finally, H.B. 440 would require proper venue in cases concerning latent diseases to be established in a parish where the plaintiff’s substantial exposure occurred.  This bill will prevent attorneys from forum shopping around the court system.  As stated by Landry, “It will ensure that those really injured will have their day in court.  At the end of the day, I think that is all that everyone wants- to operate fairly and equitably and help those who genuinely need the help.”

Another civil justice reform bill currently pending in the House Committee on Civil Law and Procedure is H.B. 343.  This legislation would reduce the jury threshold from $50,000 to $5,000.  The current threshold is the highest in the nation and is more than 28 times the national average.

ATRA will continue to monitor the bills’ movement, and for additional information about the legislation please click here.

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