Study: Parish Lawsuits Over Coastal Erosion Threaten Louisiana's Economy

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August 07, 2019

New Poll Shows Louisianans Question Motives of Erosion Lawsuits


August 8, 2018

NEW ORLEANS—A new study released today from the U.S. Chamber Institute for Legal Reform shows how trial lawyers designed parish lawsuits against Louisiana’s biggest employer—the energy industry—to bypass state laws on potential awards and settlements and generate big paydays for themselves.

Litigation vs. Restoration details the history of coastal litigation in Louisiana, and how the current crop of lawsuits could put the future of its key driver of economic growth in jeopardy. The study also outlines how entrepreneurial plaintiffs’ lawyers have crafted these lawsuits to get massive payouts and bypass a state law that requires parishes or cities to use any award money to fix the coast.

Separate economic research has shown the true costs of lawsuits like these and Louisiana's broader runaway lawsuit system. Each Pelican State household paid $4,000 in tort costs in 2016. Total tort costs were equivalent to almost three percent of the state’s gross domestic product (GDP), which is among the highest proportion in the country.

“These lawsuits miss their intended purpose completely,” said U.S. Chamber Institute for Legal Reform Chief Operating Officer Harold Kim. “The lawyers will get paid first, the residents bear the cost burden, and the alleged problem they purport to be fixing will go unsolved.”

Louisiana’s energy industry employs nearly two million Louisianans, and contributes hundreds of millions of dollars into the state’s economy. In 2017 alone, the industry contributed almost 6 percent of the total amount of taxes, licenses and fees collected by the state.

Yet a series of lawsuits filed by local parishes could upheave this. Since 2017, there have been 43 lawsuits filed in state court by six parishes and the city of New Orleans against energy companies over alleged coastal erosion.

A new online poll conducted by the U.S. Chamber Institute for Legal Reform found a lack of support for these suits. A majority of Louisianans (57 percent) said these lawsuits were more about “trial lawyers looking for a payday” than fixing environmental damage. The poll of 1,001 Louisianans was conducted July 31, 2019 through August 2, 2019, with a margin of error of +/- 3.2%.

Litigation vs. Restoration lays out workable alternatives to litigation, including increased funding to restoration efforts.