Discussion about jury trials turns into heated debate

State Rep. Ray Garofalo, R-Chalmette (center), addresses the committee.
State Rep. Ray Garofalo, R-Chalmette (center), addresses the committee.

BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - Spirited debate about lawsuits in Louisiana erupted into much more Tuesday morning and was still in the middle of a slug fest at the noon hour.

The cost of a jury trial is the subject of a House bill looking to remove the price tag. Currently in Louisiana, if a civil lawsuit is not worth more than $50,000, you are not entitled to a jury trial.

Louisiana has the highest threshold, which supporters of HB 917, say warrants the action.

"Louisiana sticks out like a sore thumb when it comes to the bar for citizens to request a trial by jury," said state Rep. Ray Garofalo, R-Chalmette, sponsor of the bill. "We have a $50,000 threshold. The next closest state is at $15,000. And, there is only one state at $15,000. Thirty-six states, 36 states zero, a zero threshold to select a jury trial, a trial by your peers."

Critics say the bill will log jam the already over-burdened court system. Supporters say the bill will actually lower insurance rates statewide.

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