Oklahoma Supreme Court Strikes Down Tort Reform

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The Oklahoma Supreme Court handed down two decisions on June 4, 2013 with respect to the constitutionality of the Comprehensive Lawsuit Reform Act of 2009 (“Tort Reform Act” or “Act”). The first opinion, Wall v. Marouk, 2013 WL 2407160 (Okla. June 4, 2013), declared one section of the Act unconstitutional. More importantly, the second opinion, Douglas v. Cox Retirement Properties, Inc., 2013 WL 2407169 (Okla. June 4, 2013), declared the entire act unconstitutional and void because it violates “the single-subject rule” of Article 5, section 57 of the Oklahoma Constitution.

Summary of the Opinions -

Wall found section 19 of the Act (12 O.S. § 19) unconstitutional as violative of Article 5, section 46 of the Oklahoma Constitution and Article 2, section 6 of the Oklahoma Constitution. Section 19 provides that “in civil actions for professional negligence, the plaintiff must attach an expert’s affidavit.” The Court held that section 19 constituted a special law in violation of Article 5, section 46 of the Oklahoma Constitution. “A special law confers some right or imposes some duty on some but not all of the class of those who stand upon the same footing and same relation to the subject of the law.” Oklahoma City v. Griffin, 1965 OK 76, ¶ 8, 403 P.2d 463. The Court additionally held that section 19 violates Article 2, section 6 of the Oklahoma Constitution because it “creates a monetary barrier to access the court system, and then applies that barrier only to a specific subclass of potential tort victims, those who are the victims of professional negligence.”

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DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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