Senator Louie Bernard showed yesterday why the people of Senate District 31 made the right decision when they voted overwhelmingly to have him represent us in Baton Rouge. The Senate Agriculture, Forestry, Aquaculture, and Rural Development Committee heard Senate Bill 471 on Tuesday. The bill is an extremely complicated and lengthy piece of legislation that would drastically strip Louisiana citizens of their rights.
The bill, which runs 35 pages, was placed on the Committee’s agenda late Monday afternoon. This is a departure from the normal notice given to the public. The late notice, coupled with the risk posed by the Coronavirus, prevented citizens from appearing at the Capital to oppose the legislation.
The purpose of the bill is to protect logging companies and their insurance companies from fully compensating people who are killed or catastrophically injured because of the reckless conduct of logging truck drivers. The bill contains many controversial provisions; however, the most radical provision of the bill would cap the general damages a person can recover at $500,000.
Under the bill, if a father of three is killed by a logging truck driver who caused the crash because he was operating his truck while intoxicated, the most his three children and surviving spouse could recover for the pain and suffering caused by the loss of their husband and father would be $500,000. And that is not $500,000 each. The three children and spouse would have to split the $500,000.
Likewise, if a child is run over by a logging truck and rendered a quadriplegic, that child’s recovery for pain and suffering would be capped at $500,000. This bill has nothing to do with stopping frivolous lawsuits. The bill would only hurt those people who are seriously injured or lose a loved one because of the fault of a log truck driver.
Senator Bernard showcased the type of leadership that people in our community should be proud of. Senator Bernard acknowledged that the logging industry is vital to our State and many loggers are faced with extremely high insurance rates. Senator Bernard clearly wants to help the logging industry.
Despite his desire to help the logging industry, Senator Bernard refused to compromise his deeply held commitment to the value of human life. Senator Bernard eloquently spoke in opposition to the bill. Senator Bernard stated that he did not believe that it was the role of the legislature to place an arbitrary value on human life and human suffering. He pointed out that under our Nation’s system of justice, a 12-person jury comprised of members of our community, after hearing all the evidence in a particular case, is in the best position to determine the value of a person’s injury or loss of a loved one.
The bill contains some good ideas that could make our roads safer and reduce the number of crashes involving log trucks, such as technological advancements for trucks and better training of drivers. Senator Bernard committed to working with the proponents of the bill to reach a compromise.
The people of District 31 should be proud to have a Senator representing them in Baton Rouge who refuses to let the government place an arbitrary dollar amount on the value of a human life, regardless of how much he appreciates a particular business industry. Our State would be much better off if every elected official in Baton Rouge showed this type of conscientious, reasonable and thoughtful approach to legislating. We all owe Senator Bernard an thank you for standing up for the value of human life.