Municipal court battles cost Louisiana’s taxpayers more than $24 Million each year
NEW ORLEANS, La. – When a drunk driver flees from police, reaches 110 miles per hour, and subsequently has a fatal accident, one might be surprised that the local government was sued and paid the family $175,000. But that is exactly what happened here in Louisiana, and this is one of many similar stories cited in a report released this week from Louisiana Lawsuit Abuse Watch.
LLAW is a nonpartisan, legal watchdog group, and its report, “Drinking from the Taxpayer Trough,” piles on evidence that Louisiana has an earned reputation as one of the worst states in the nation for incorrect court decisions and inadequate civil laws. A national survey of more than 1,000 attorneys, for example, ranked Louisiana 49th for legal fairness.
LLAW’s analysis also indicates recent growth in lawsuits against city municipalities, many of which they believe to be frivolous, by 15 percent between 2005 and 2009. Despite almost zero population growth, civil filings in Louisiana’s city and parish courts also increased by 24 percent.
“At a time of deep recession, when state and local governments are going through unprecedented budget hardships, our municipalities are spending tens of millions of dollars defending against lawsuits and paying settlements,” says Melissa Landry, LLAW’s executive director. “Our municipalities would be better off using our precious tax dollars on much-needed public services such as education, law enforcement, health care and road repairs.”
Baton Rouge spent $10.2 million on defense litigation between 2006 and 2009. With that money, over the same four year period, LLAW estimates that city officials could have hired roughly 80 new police officers.
In addition to the taxpayer expense, LLAW members seek to highlight how a broken legal system has a detrimental effect on economic prosperity, since it hampers a state’s ability to attract new jobs and economic investment.