'Legacy lawsuit' reform makes it through La. House committee

By Kyle Barnett | Apr 20, 2012

BATON ROUGE, La. (Legal Newsline) - A bill that would reform handling of "legacy lawsuits" in Louisiana has made its way through the House Civil Law Committee.

The committee voted 10-2 to pass HB618, sponsored by Democrat Neil Abramson of New Orleans, on to debate on the House floor.

The bill would change the way courts deal with lawsuits by allowing the Department of Natural Resources to limit damages to the amount it would cost to clean up the sites before the jury is allowed to hear the case. This change would clear up one of the energy industry's complaints that anyone who owns land that was formerly used for drilling, whether polluted or not, could benefit from filing a lawsuit without being able to prove damages.

The bill would limit the liability of energy producers who admit to contributing to sustained environmental pollution on a piece of property.

Also included in the legislation is the allowance of defendants in the cases to be expedited through making a plan for the most feasible cleanup of the land, which would be determined by the DNR.

Admitting to the pollution would require an upfront payment of $100,000 from the defendant to the DNR to go to review and development plans to clean up the site as well as a to host a public forum concerning the environmental remediation effort. Within 30 days of the DNR filing a cleanup plan the defendant would be required to reimburse the plaintiff for the expenses outlined by the department.

Debate of HB618 is scheduled on on the house floor on April 25.

Industry officials have come out in strong support of the bill.

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