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It could get even harder to sue Mardi Gras krewes for float deaths, injuries

Mardi Gras 2022
Katelyn Umholtz
Revelers attend a Zulu parade on Mardi Gras day, March 1, 2022 in New Orleans. Mardi Gras 2022 was the return of parades in New Orleans after a year of canceled revelry due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

This story was first published by the Louisiana Illuminator. You can read the original article here.

The Louisiana House voted 96-0 Wednesday for legislation that would make it more difficult to sue Mardi Gras krewes and other parade organizations over death or injuries caused by parade floats. It now moves to the Senate for consideration.

House Bill 923, sponsored by Rep. Scott McKnight, R-Baton Rouge, would limit the ability for people to sue a krewe, parade organization oftheir employees and contractors for any injury, death or damage caused by a parade float unless it was done by a “deliberate and wonton act or gross negligence.”

This new language would replace a current provision in state law that offered a narrow window to sue over some float injuries and death. Presently, people can sue Mardi Gras krewes and other parade organizations if a member of the group was paid to drive the float. It also explicitly says any employee driving a float could be sued for “individual acts of negligence.”

The proposed higher standards come two years after two people were killed by floats in New Orleans during Mardi Gras parades.

In 2020, Geraldine Carmouche, 58, died when she tried to cross over the middle of a tandem float in the Nyx parade. Three days later, Joseph Sampson, 58, died when he was either pushed or fell into a tandem float during the Endymion parade. The accidents prompted the New Orleans City Council to require new barriers over the connected portions of tandem floats.

McKnight said he brought the bill to try and control insurance costs for Mardi Gras krewes and other parade organizations. The number of insurance companies willing to cover parades is shrinking and the price of those policies are increasing, said McKnight, who works in the insurance industry.

“We have a unique parade culture here in Louisiana. Our parades are interactive parades,” he said. “In other places, the parade routes are 100% surrounded by barricades.”

McKnight said if insurance costs can’t be controlled, Louisiana may end up with parades that are entirely behind barricades. .

“My goal here is to allow for our parade culture to stay the way it is,” McKnight said. “It is not a reaction to [the 2020 float deaths in New Orleans].”

McKnight is not a member of a Mardi Gras krewe or parade organization. He has ridden on parade floats, though not in recent years. His insurance company may offer coverage to krewes, but he’s not involved in those transactions.

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