For most personal injury lawsuits in New Orleans, the parties have the right to request that a jury, not the judge, hear their case. This is not true, however, when the damages being sought are less than $50,000. For these cases of lesser value, Louisiana law requires that any trial be conducted before a judge who makes the final decision on the merits of the lawsuit and the damages sought. While many states have such a threshold before a jury may be requested, Louisiana’s financial limit is by far the highest.
On April 2, 2012, the Civil Law and Procedure Committee of the Louisiana House Monday rejected a bill that proposed lowering this $50,000 threshold to $15,000 for lawsuits classified as tort cases – which primarily consist of personal injury cases. The reasons for this rejection included a feeling among some lawmakers that it constituted an attempt by the business lobby to make it more difficult for injured parties in these cases to successfully pursue damages.
Some proponents of the bill confirmed that they believe the judges of Louisiana are too favorable toward the injured party in personal injury lawsuits. The proposed bill would have allowed either party to request a jury trial, with the party requesting the jury paying the cost of it. Given that the damages sought in these cases is relatively small and the cost would be paid by the party requesting the jury, opponents of the bill pointed out that injured individuals would be much less likely to request a jury trial than a corporate defendant, who could have used the proposed law to avoid judges felt to be too plaintiff oriented.
Supporters of the bill also argued that the current law denied parties a right to trial by jury available in other states. Opponents of the bill, however, pointed out that the parties proposing the bill had limited the bill to only tort cases – primarily personal injury cases – instead of all civil cases. As a result, the motivation for proposing the bill does not appear to have been the furtherance of freedom of choice, but rather to provide a means of avoiding judges perceived as pro-plaintiff in personal injury cases.
If you have suffered an injury as a result of another’s negligence, you deserve to be fairly compensated. Please call us at 504-581-6411 or 855-GERTLER. We would be happy to help you.