In Oklahoma, an Improved Business Climate via Tort Reform

By April 12, 2011Briefly Legal

Gov. Mary Fallin of Oklahoma has signed three major pieces of tort reform legislation to law, discouraging abusive and frivolous lawsuits and improving the state’s business climate. From her April 5 statement:

For too long, inflated legal fees have been an unnecessary cost-driver in the private sector and a burden on the medical community. As a result, we’ve seen businesses and doctors choose to locate in other states, depriving our citizens of good jobs, reducing access to medical care and driving up the costs for medical treatment.

I’m thrilled to be able to sign into law measures which will directly address skyrocketing legal fees, protect our doctors, and help to bring more jobs and businesses into Oklahoma while still protecting the rights of plaintiffs and those who have suffered injuries. This is a great day for anyone who is committed to building a more prosperous state and a stronger economy.

The three bills she signed:

  • HB 2128 places a $350,000 hard cap on non-economic damages. HB 2128 will not impact economic damages, such as lost wages, medical expenses and future loss of expected wages.  The bill also includes an exception to the cap in cases of malicious conduct, gross negligence and reckless disregard.
  • SB 862 eliminates joint and several liability, sometimes known as the “deep pocket” rule, where each and every defendant in a tort lawsuit is liable for the entire amount of a plaintiff’s damage regardless of their degree of fault.
  • SB 865 requires that juries be instructed in civil cases that no part of an award for damages for personal injury or wrongful death is subject to federal or state income tax; and the jury should not consider income taxes when determining a proper compensation award.

Congratulations to our friends and allies at the State Chamber of Oklahoma, who have been absolutely tireless over several legislative sessions to enact these laws. In a statement, State Chamber President Fred Morgan said:

For years, we have fought for lawsuit reform to help bring fairness and consistency to our courts for the business community and those who have been injured alike. We can celebrate that this day is finally here, and relish the message it sends to companies looking to relocate nationwide—that Oklahoma truly is open for business,We have fallen behind states like Texas, Missouri, Mississippi and others that have passed significant lawsuit reform in recent years. But, as this legislation becomes law we will be able to compete for jobs like we never have before.

News coverage ….

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