HB 57 by GOP Speaker Clay Schexnayder in its final form accomplishes most of what Republicans wanted with tort reform. The issues involved, in order of impact in lowering vehicle insurance rates, are (1) lowering the amount in controversy, or the jury trial threshold, (2) calculating more accurately the actual costs involved to deal with injury, or collateral source, (3) eliminating the ability to sue insurance companies directly, or direct action, (4) allowing evidence of seat belt usage in a trial, or the seat belt gag rule, and (5) lengthening the amount of time to file these cases for hearing, or the prescription period.
At the most immediate and micro level, Edwards suffered a massive defeat. Understand that he gained reelection narrowly last year only as a result of a massive amount of donations from trial lawyer-friendly lobbies. The deal was he had to stand as a bulwark against exactly the kinds of things he will sign, but the Legislature’s Republican leadership, reflecting the primacy their party’s members placed on the issue, tore that up by pursuing a strategy that boxed him in that proffered options he loathed even more, termed the “nuclear option,” that would trigger had he not accepted the HB 57 provisions. As a result, the Louisiana GOP acted like a legislative majority party for the first time in its history.