This past summer, the Louisiana legislature passed the Civil Justice Reform Act of 2020 (HB 57, the “Act”). Governor John Bel Edwards passed this “tort reform” law to address perceived litigation abuse by plaintiffs. Lobbyists favoring business interests and insurance assert that Louisiana car accidents are on par with national statistics, yet the state experiences an excessive number of injury lawsuits. On the other side, attorneys, judges, and medical providers contend that the changes will present significant barriers to injury victims. Injury victims must understand their rights and remedies because the Act, effective January 1, 2021, significantly impacts Louisiana personal injury lawsuits.
The legislation’s central features include changes to jury thresholds, the collateral source doctrine, and the admissibility of insurance evidence. Before the change, a judge rather than a jury would decide a case valued at $50,000 or higher. However, the jury threshold revision changed the amount in controversy required for a jury trial from $50,000 to $10,000. Next, before HB 57, the collateral source rule controlled how much a plaintiff could recover for past medical past expenses. The rule allowed recovery for amounts covered by health insurance providers, Medicare, and Medicaid. The change eliminates the possibility of a windfall, and limits recovery to the amount the victim actually paid.
The next change involves evidence of insurance. HB 57 prohibits addressing or naming the defendant’s insurance provider, and policy, other than at the conclusion of the trial. Insurance companies argue that this change was necessary because juries are more likely to award more significant damages if they know that the insurance company will be paying for any damages, rather than the defendant.