Sunday, July 12, 2020

Louisiana approves tort reform bill -- UPDATED

About two weeks ago, the Louisiana legislature passed a tort reform bill that the Governor said he would sign, (after he had vetoed an earlier version).

The bill, which appears to be explicitly designed to favor the auto insurance industry adopts a limitation of the collateral source rule, removes the ban on mentioning whether a plaintiff was wearing a seat belt, limits when an insurance company's name can be mentioned in court, and reduces the threshold for jury trials from $50,000 to $10,000.

The first two measures are common in tort reform bills, but the measure related to the jury is strange because usually juries are thought of being more generous that judges when calculating damages.  It is not clear, why a tort reform bill designed to favor defendants tries to expand the number of cases that will be tried by juries.

Like most, if not all, tort reform bills, this one fails to address the real issue.  The bill is supposed to help lower car insurance rates, but  instead of drafting a bill that regulates those rates, the legislature drafted a bill to help insurance companies make more money while doing nothing to lower the bills.  I suppose it remains to be seen what will happen but more than likely, the consumers will get screwed twice: the insurance rates will remain the same (or continue to rise), and the injured victims will get lower compensation....  unless they miscalculated the gamble on whether juries will be less generous.

The TortsProf blog has more on the story here.

UPDATE 8/2/20: The Governor signed the bill....  Story here.

Missouri holds that public defenders are immune for discretionary functions

In a case called Laughlin v. Perry, decided on June 30, 2020, the Missouri Supreme Court found that public defenders are immune for legal malpractice liability under the doctrine of discretionary functions.   You can read the opinion here.   The court summarized its conclusion as follows:
As public defenders, Perry and Flottman are entitled to official immunity because they are public employees whose official statutory duties concern the performance of discretionary acts. . . . One need not be a public official engaged in the essence of governing to be entitled to official immunity; such immunity extends to protect public employees from liability for alleged acts of negligence committed during the course of performing discretionary acts requiring exercise of a degree of reason and judgment. There is no dispute Perry and Flottman were acting pursuant to their constitutionally and statutorily mandated duties in representing Laughlin, and . . .  choosing which defenses to raise and which arguments to pursue on appeal on behalf of indigent clients constitutes a discretionary act entitled to official immunity.

Thursday, July 2, 2020

Liability waivers in the age of the novel coronavirus

The ABA Journal has published a short article on issues related to the use of liability waivers in the age of the novel coronavirus.  You can read it here.