Your recent editorial ("Debunking Jindal's 'frivolous' claim," Com-mentary, Nov. 2) praising the Southeast Louisiana Flood Protection Authority-East (SLFPA-E) for extracting a meager $50,000 settlement from two companies targeted by the board's controversial lawsuit overlooks several key points.
First, consider the manner in which the settlement was negotiated. Consistent with the trial lawyers' game plan, the settlement was discussed behind closed doors far outside the light of public scrutiny and never openly voted on by the [SLFPA-E].
The problem with this strategy — essentially regulation through litigation, or more specifically, behind-the-scenes negotiation — is that it takes people out of the process. Without question, many citizens have grave concerns about how the state will fund coastal restoration and flood protection efforts in the future. That is precisely the reason issues of such monumental importance to the citizenry of the entire state should not be decided by a few unelected members of one regional levee board and the plaintiffs' lawyers who represent them in private settlement talks, in which they have an undeniable financial interest.
'Issues of such monumental importance to the citizenry of the entire state should not be decided by a few unelected members of one regional levee board and the plaintiffs' lawyers who represent them in private settlement talks, in which they have an undeniable financial interest.'
— Melissa Landry
Now, let's consider the value of the settlement. It is obvious the Texas-based companies only agreed to a settlement to extract themselves from this case and the lawsuit cesspool we know as Louisiana's legal system. The economic reality is that it is far cheaper for the companies to cough up $25,000 each than it is for them to incur the ongoing cost of two legal defense teams — especially in Louisiana's unpredictable legal climate where anything can happen, regardless of law or fact.
Finally, let's consider the practical impact that $50,000 will have on the effort to save our coast. Unfortunately, the impact will be negligible at best.
It is obvious this is not a credible legal strategy or a well-informed public policy initiative. This is plaintiffs' lawyers doing what they do best: using lawsuits to create the illusion of relief that will ultimately do nothing more than increase their own bottom lines.
Another timely and relevant example of this is the settlement recently announced by trial lawyers involved in the levee breech lawsuit. Nearly 10 years after the litigation was filed, a team of lawyers will divvy up $3.5 million while flood victims will get less than $500 each.
In the end, who is really benefiting from these lawsuits? I would venture to say, it is not the people.
Executive director, Louisiana Lawsuit Abuse Watch