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Louisiana judge raises constitutionality question in oil lawsuit

After the Southeast Louisiana Flood Protection Authority-East filed a lawsuit against just under 100 different oil companies over their alleged maltreatment of wetlands in coastal areas, a judge may be willing to challenge the validity of a law that indemnifies them. According to reports, the Baton Rouge district judge in question requested additional arguments about the lawsuit and Act 544, a 2014 statute that plays a critical role in the case.

Act 544, which was passed with approval from state legislators, bars local government entities from attempting lawsuits unless they have the go-ahead from the state. Some observers maintain that the act was specifically designed to place an obstacle in front of the flood authority that initiated this case, and the judge has noted that the legislation may violate the state's constitutionally mandated separation of powers rule. Her request for additional arguments has resulted in the case being scheduled for a November transfer to the federal judicial system, and it remains to be seen how this may affect judgments in any concurrent personal injury lawsuits against the firms.

Governor Bobby Jindal claimed in a public statement that the lawsuit's supporters are simply trying to find a court that will hear their argument more favorably. Reports note that this litigation has been contentious since it was initiated, especially in light of the judgment size, which would potentially number in the billions of dollars in damages and notable legal fees for the flood authority's attorneys.

Lawsuits rarely occur in isolation. Injured victims who seek restitution against firms may find that opposing attorneys bring up other ongoing cases in an attempt to stall judgments or defend their clients. As such, those who want to pursue damages are generally well advised to research the status of other legal actions beforehand.

Source: The Louisiana Record, "Judge asks for further arguments over constitutionality of levee board lawsuit", Kyle Barnett, October 07, 2014

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