Insurers Fight Trial Bar Initiatives in La.

May 11, 2006

The right to have trial by jury in Louisiana will become more difficult if the Louisiana Legislature agrees with a trial bar initiative and passes SB 117, according to the Property Casualty Insurers Association of America (PCI).

“If you think you have a right to be tried by a jury of your peers – think again,” said Greg LaCost, assistant vice president and regional manager for PCI. “While there is a U.S. constitutional guarantee involving civil lawsuits of $20 or more, this right applies only to federal trials. Each state sets their own monetary threshold for jury trials. Louisiana currently has the nation’s highest monetary thresholds at $50,000. Now the trial bar wants to make the threshold for a jury trial even more difficult to reach.”

As originally proposed the bill would have made it necessary for a plaintiff to claim $100,000 in damages. This was amended to $75,000. The bill was approved May 9 in the Senate Judiciary Committee.

“Currently 36 states do not have a monetary threshold, which makes the Louisiana amount way out of line with the rest of the country. Less than a handful of states even have a threshold nearing $15,000. The remaining states have a threshold of between $1,500 and $5,000. The trial bar believes they can prevail more easily by persuading one judge rather than trying the case before a jury. This system contains some fundamental unfairness and contributes to an unfriendly legal climate in Louisiana,” said LaCost.

In other legislative action, the Senate and House Insurance Committees deferred action on legislation that would require insurers to provide a potential plaintiff with insurance policy information that could create privacy concerns. Under this legislation insurers would be required to share the name of each insured, the limits of liability coverage, a statement of any policy defense or coverage defense, or exclusion and a copy of the policy. Senate Bill 342 was heard in committee yesterday (May 10) and was indefinitely postponed after testimony from PCI and the Louisiana Farm Bureau.

PCI opposed these measures because these requests will slow down the claims process, increase litigation and potentially disclose private information. “The contract between the insurer and the consumer is a private document and its disclosure to a third party should be done either voluntarily by the consumer or under the protection of a judge,” said LaCost.

Source: PCI

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