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Monday, 04 November 2013 14:34
Levee Board lawsuit can open flood gates for trial attorneys in Louisiana
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Katrina-StBernard Irony can be pretty rich sometimes … and a handful of trial lawyers are taking that logic all the way to the bank.

 

When the Southeast Louisiana Flood Protection Authority-East filed suit against 97 oil companies in July, they put a mile wide crack in the dam that was holding back a lawsuit tidal wave. The flood of additional lawsuits we are likely to see as a result of that action will attempt to swamp the job creators in this state and send them running for any dry land they can find. As other suits are filed to get in on the action anyway possible, the skies will get cloudier and cloudier for anyone who is planning to invest dollars and resources in the state, unless the dam is repaired.

That levee board and others like it were rightfully created with great fanfare and hope back in 2007, with many people at the time trumpeting the benefit of a responsible governing body that would wisely operate free of political influence. However, I don’t think anyone who signed up for that effort intended to then watch that board willingly succumb to trial lawyer influence instead.

The non-competitive contingency fee contract negotiated in private by this public body will allow lawyers to recover 32.5 percent of any recovery up to $100 million and 27.5 percent of any dollars between $100 to $300 million, and 22.5 percent on any figure over that.

Some of the more vocal supporters of that suit are mistaking independence for immunity from public input. The public has a right to be protected by this type of action to commit millions of dollars to a few hand-selected lawyers, and thankfully, many in the public are pushing back. That public voice you hear is not interference, as some mistakenly allege. It is simply an example of listening to that primal instinct of fairness that we, as citizens in a democratic society, cannot suppress whenever we see something so egregious by a public body created to protect us.

At some point, we need to bring rationale discourse to this very real issue of protection of our environment and communities. Louisiana is the sportsman’s paradise in large part due to our bountiful coastline. We are raised in this state with a healthy respect for everything that coastline offers and our people are some of the best stewards around. Additionally, we are proud to be the energy capital of the nation, and we have shown for years that you can simultaneously protect, enjoy, and produce natural resources.

In many ways, that makes us unique from others. Europe and many other parts of this country are restricting the use of their own natural resources and, as a result, the world is starting to invest in Louisiana. New companies and industries in the world’s economy are bringing their capital to Louisiana. Workforce needs are becoming an increasing challenge because of the many jobs that are becoming available to our citizens. That, while a very real challenge, is a clear indicator of the sunny days ahead for our economy.

The people of this state are on the verge of great opportunity, and our communities will benefit for generations to come as the world shifts its investments to our shores. It would be truly ironic if the levee board created with such great fanfare to protect those very people will be the ones to wash all that potential away.

by Stephen Waguespack, President of Louisiana Association of Business and Industry

INTERVIEW II: Stephen Waguespack talks of new future, challenges for Louisiana

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