Lawsuit Reform Measures Pass House Committee

House Bill 1620 & House Bill 1475 part of House GOP “Entrepreneurial
Society” agenda

A House committee Tuesday passed two measures aimed at providing comprehensive lawsuit reform in Oklahoma.

“There are too many abusive lawsuits filed in Oklahoma, and these measures will begin to make this state’s legal system more reasonable,” said Rep. Rob Johnson (R-Kingfisher), author of House Bill 1620. “While our legal system in Oklahoma works in many respects, we’re proposing common sense reforms that will make the system better.”

House Bill 1620 is a part of the House Republican majority’s Entrepreneurial Society legislative platform – a package of legislative measures focused on removing barriers to economic growth and opportunity in Oklahoma. The measure passed the House Judiciary and Public Safety Committee Tuesday, as did House Bill 1475, a bill focused on medical liability.

“Our legal system in Oklahoma should ensure access to our courts for those with legitimate claims, but it should not allow unfair shakedown lawsuits and costly jackpot justice,” said House Speaker Lance Cargill (R-Harrah).

House Bill 1620 contains a number of provisions, including limiting the amount a defendant can be required to pay to secure the right to appeal; making it harder for frivolous lawsuits to make it to trial; limiting unreasonable class-action lawsuits; limiting the plaintiff to only be liable for its proportionate share of damages, excluding cr iminal cases; limiting non-economic damages in civil suits to a reasonable amount; and protecting school officials from being sued for reasonably punishing unruly students.

House Bill 1475 lifts the restriction on the medical specialties under which the $300,000 non-economic damages cap applies. Existing language only applies to OB-GYNs as it relates to pregnancy, and medical professionals involved in emergency room care. Wrongful death or negligence are exceptions to the cap.

“As a physician in a rural community, I know that the fear of junk lawsuits and the high price of liability insurance are having a terrible impact on health care in our state,” said Rep. Doug Cox (R-Grove), an emergency room physician and the author of HB 1475. “We need reallawsuit reform to ensure access to quality health care in our state.”

A third part of the House GOP’s lawsuit reform package, House Bill 2106, is scheduled for a floor vote today.

Authored by Speaker Cargill, HB 2106 will create a specialized court docket to handle commercial and corporate disputes. Cargill said the complex nature of these types of cases requires expertise and familiarity with specific areas of business law, creating a significant burden on trial courts.

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