Senate Judiciary Committee presses lawsuit reforms

Legislative Staff Report

Published 09-Feb-2011

The Senate Judiciary Committee met for the first time in the 2011 session on Tuesday (February 8) approving five lawsuit reform measures that are key components of the Senate Republican legislative agenda.

“We have been working on lawsuit reform for years, taking mostly an incremental approach because we did not have the numbers or a Republican governor to support strong reforms,” said Senator Anthony Sykes, a Moore Republican and chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee. “These bills protect Oklahomans, our doctors and our businesses from frivolous lawsuits.”

The five bills passed in the Committee on Judiciary include:

  • Senate Bill 862 will eliminate joint and several liability, protecting defendants from judgments that exceed the degree to which they are at fault (for example: preventing a person or company from having to pay for 90% of damages when they have only 50% of fault)
  • S.B. 863 will put a hard cap on non-economic damages at $250,000
  • S.B. 864 will require that compensation from sources independent of a defendant shall be submitted as evidence to the jury and subtracted from the amount of damages recovered from the defendant
  • S.B. 865 will require that juries receive accurate information regarding tax impact on awards
  • S.B. 866 will allow for periodic payment of future damages rather than requiring that awards be paid in a lump sum.

“Oklahoma is way behind the curve on these reform measures. Just a few short years ago a Democrat President Pro Tem wrote a letter to encourage attorneys in other states to bring their lawsuits to Oklahoma because we had not enacted these reforms that our neighbors had,” said Sykes. “We are sending the opposite message today, Oklahoma will no longer be known as a lawsuit destination state.”

Sykes said that Oklahomans will not only benefit economically by reducing frivolous lawsuits but the state will also be more attractive to doctors seeking to establish practice here.