Louisiana Takes Steps Toward Tort Reform
As the COVID-19 pandemic continues, the Civil Justice Reform Act was quietly passed by the Louisiana Legislature during a special session and signed into law by the Louisiana Governor. The new law is a trimmed down version of the bill that was passed during the legislative regular session but vetoed by the Governor. The new law takes effect January 1, 2021 and only applies to lawsuits filed on or after that date. The changes impact the jury trial threshold, the collaterals source rule, as well as evidence of insurance and the use of seatbelts at trial. We provide a summary of the changes below:
Jury trial threshold is reduced from $50,000 to $10,000.
Once a petitioner stipulates or judicially admits that damages exceed $10,000 but are less $50,000, a party may obtain a trial by jury by filing a pleading demanding a jury trial and providing a cash deposit of $5,000 no later than 60 days after filing the request. Failure to post the deposit will constitute a waiver of the jury trial.
Parish and city court: If a party is otherwise entitled to a jury trial, the defendant may obtain such by transferring the action to district court. Failure to transfer within the delay to answer or within 10 days after an answer has been filed will result in waiver of the transfer.
A jury trial is not available for non-tort suits originally filed in parish or city court when the amount in controversy does not exceed the parish or city court's jurisdictional limit.
Although a policy of insurance may be admissible, the amount of coverage under the policy shall not be communicated to the jury unless the amount is a disputed issue which the jury will decide.
The existence of insurance coverage shall not be communicated to the jury unless:
A factual dispute related to an issue of coverage is an issue which the jury will decide.
The existence of insurance coverage would be admissible to attack the credibility of a witness.
The cause of action is brought against the insurer alone under the direct-action statute or bad faith statute R.S. 22:1973. Note there is no mention of R.S. 22:1892.
The identity of the insurer shall not be communicated to the jury (unless the identity of the insurer is used to attack the credibility of a witness).
In all cases brought against the insurer pursuant to the direct-action statute or R.S. 22:1973, at the opening and closing of the trial, the court must read instructions to the jury that there is insurance coverage.
The jury will be informed of the amount billed rather than the amount actually paid.
Where the claimant’s medical expenses are paid by insurance or Medicare, the claimant can only recover medical expenses that are actually paid by insurance plus any co-pay or deductible, not the amount billed.
Post-trial, the trial judge will reduce the recoverable medicals to only the amount paid, plus forty percent (40%) of the difference between the amount billed and the amount actually paid unless a defendant can prove this supplemental award is unreasonable.
Where the claimant’s medical expenses are paid under the Louisiana Workers’ Compensation Law, recovery of medical expenses is limited to the amount paid under the fee schedule of the LWC.
The claimant's recovery of medical expenses paid by Medicaid is limited to the amount actually paid to the medical provider by Medicaid, and any applicable cost sharing amounts paid or owed by the claimant, and not the amount billed.
Failure to wear a seat belt can now be used as evidence.
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