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Tuesday, 30 June 2020 23:06

LA Lawmakers Advance Lawsuit Bill, Tax Break Expansion

Written by David Jacobs, The Center Square


The Louisiana Senate on June 29 approved bipartisan legislation that would make sweeping changes to how the state’s legal system handles car insurance claims.

Though other Republican-driven bills proposed during this year’s regular and special sessions make similar changes that supporters argue could lead to lower auto insurance rates, House Bill 66 by Mandeville Republican Rep. Richard Nelson is unique in attracting outspoken support from prominent Democrats.


“I’m going to urge the governor to sign it, not that that means anything,” said Sen. Cleo Fields, a Baton Rouge Democrat.


Gov. John Bel Edwards vetoed Senate Bill 418 from this year’s regular session, in part because it did not include a mandate to lower insurance rates.


The bill called for a 10% reduction but allowed insurers to opt out if they can convince the insurance commissioner that they can’t afford to do so, which Democrats considered a huge loophole.


The provisions in Nelson’s bill would expire if auto insurance rates don’t go down by at least 15%, which Fields cited in declaring his support. It also includes a ban on charging women more based on their gender, which many Democrats also favor.


“God bless you, Sen. Fields,” said Sen. Heather Cloud, a Turkey Creek Republican. “We all give up a little bit [with this bill.]”


House Bill 66 contains several provisions similar to those found in other bills considered this year.


It extends the amount of time available to file a lawsuit over a motor vehicle claim from one year to two, which theoretically gives both parties time to reach an agreement without litigation.


It allows plaintiffs to retain their right to sue an insurance company directly, which other Republican bills sought to end, though it restricts the jury’s ability to know whether the defendant had insurance. The idea here is that knowing the insurance company will pay and not the defendant might prejudice the jury.


Like House Bill 57 by House Speaker Clay Schexnayder, House Bill 66 would lower the amount at stake to trigger the right to a jury trial to $10,000 from $50,000, by far the highest in the nation.


The bill would bar plaintiffs from collecting damages if their percentage of fault is greater than the combined percentage of fault of all other persons found to have contributed to the alleged injury, death or loss, which is a defendant-friendly wrinkle not addressed in other bills.

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