Louisiana courts the focus of new report

John O'Brien Dec. 21, 2008, 1:19pm

James Copland

NEW YORK (Legal Newsline) - The Manhattan Institute's latest edition in its "Trial Lawyers, Inc." series explores the impact Louisiana's legal system has had on the state's slow population growth.

A little over a month after its last installment tackled the courts of West Virginia, the state whose reputation -- according to a poll commissioned by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce -- couldn't be worse with corporate lawyers, the Institute took on 49th-ranked Louisiana.

"Louisiana's hospitability to litigation is an impediment to its economic recovery: 64 percent of business leaders around the country surveyed by Harris (Interactive, hired by the Chamber) said that a state's litigation climate would affect their decision on where to locate a business," the report says.

"If Louisiana's leaders want to resuscitate their state's fortunes, then cleaning up its system of civil justice would be a good place to start."

The state has lost 200,000 residents since 2005's Hurricane Katrina, but the report claims the downward population trend had started before then -- trailing the national population growth average by 4 percent.

"Even so, one segment of the population - trial lawyers - is finding the state to be an excellent place to hang out and do business," the report says. "Long a lawsuit-friendly jurisdiction, Louisiana has become a magnet for mass tort lawyers squeezed by comprehensive tort reform in neighboring states such as Texas and Mississippi."

The report says the state Supreme Court has moved away from long-standing limitations on damages.

"Traditionally, the state lumped together as 'general damages' non-pecuniary injuries such as "pain and suffering," the report says.

"While loss of enjoyment of life can legitimately be thought to be an aspect of 'general damages,' recently Louisiana's courts have begun allowing various elements of general damages to be set as separate elements in a jury charge.

"In 2006, the state supreme court for the first time embraced a separate jury charge for a new variety of damages - 'hedonic' damages, or 'loss of enjoyment of life' - developed conceptually by economists in the 1980s."

Other portions of the report focus on renowned plaintiffs attorney Russ Herman, new legal theories that have surfaced in the state's courts, Hurricane Katrina lawsuits and the legacy of former Attorney General Charles Foti.

The Manhattan Institute calls itself "a think tank whose mission is to develop and disseminate new ideas that foster greater economic choice and individual responsibility." Legal Newsline is owned by the Institute for Legal Reform, an affiliate of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

From Legal Newsline: Reach John O'Brien by e-mail at john@legalnewsline.com.

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