Lawsuits having large impact on small La. businesses - KPLC 7 News, Lake Charles, Louisiana

Lawsuits having large impact on small La. businesses

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(Source: KPLC) (Source: KPLC)
Tim Stine. (Source: KPLC) Tim Stine. (Source: KPLC)
Stephen Waguespack. (Source: KPLC) Stephen Waguespack. (Source: KPLC)

Louisiana is one of the most lawsuit-heavy states in the country, and small businesses say that it's having a huge impact on them.

A family-owned and operated Stine location that has served this state for half a century says that as they continue to grow, they continue to face obstacles, because they are a small business.

The threshold for a jury trial in Louisiana is $50,000. It's the highest in the nation, followed by the State of Maryland with a $15,000 threshold. This means that judgements in any civil suit for less than $50,000 will be determined by a judge.

"If someone is going to be sued for $50,000 or less, it's going to be small business, and if you have a judge who has a history of not ruling in businesses' favor, then you would rather opt for a jury trial," said business owner Tim Stine.

Stephen Waguespack, President of the Louisiana Association of Business and Industry (LABI), wants lawmakers to do something about how some of those lawsuits are handled.

Waguespack held a conference Thursday in Lake Charles. At the conference, he outlined a plan to help businesses by pushing criminal justice reform during the upcoming legislative session.

"If you're starting a small business, I want you to have affordable insurance, and our jury threshold is making it harder to get competitive rates here," said Waguespack. "If we lower that threshold and get in line with other states we can start seeing better insurance rates in Louisiana."

In addition to the criminal justice reform that may help small business across the state at businesses like Stine, Waguespack says another priority for LABI during the upcoming legislative session is workforce development.

He said he wants to ensure that as we continue to plan for the projected economic boom, folks who want to fill job openings are skilled in science, technology, engineering and math, and that all starts with education.

"If we do the little things in education we can create that pipeline to where we get that sustainable feed stock of workers and it will attract even more investment in the years to come," Waguespack said.

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