Tort Reform in Oklahoma? Again??


In “The Godfather Part III”, Michael Corleone utters the famous line, “Just when I thought I was out, they pull me back in.” Similarly, the Oklahoma Legislature is at this very moment (the one that is taking place as I type, not necessarily as you read) working feverishly on restoring what the Oklahoma Supreme Court struck down in the case of Douglas v. Cox Retirement Properties, Inc. , 2013 OK 37 (June 4, 2013). The Court in Douglas invalidated the entirety of the 2009 tort reform laws for a variety of reasons, mainly because the law violated Oklahoma’s ‘single-subject’ rule (a pesky little thing found at Article 5, § 57 of the Oklahoma Constitution). The Court determined that many of the laws also had individual problems, including one that required a ‘certificate of merit’ from an expert before a professional negligence case could even be filed. The Supreme Court took a dim view of this, holding that the law unreasonably restrained access to the courts for many people who could not afford to pay the experts for the certificate, and in essence singled out professional negligence cases, among other things.

The immediate aftermath of the Douglas decision was to leave us with pre-2009 law 1 regarding all such things – joint and several liability, no statutory caps on non-economic damages, etc . Naturally, the backlash against the Douglas decision (and the Supreme Court) was swift. A Special Session of the Legislature has been called specifically to address the laws invalidated by the Douglas decision. The Legislature is on the fast track to getting all these bills passed individually, as well as expanding the ‘certificate of merit” requirement to ALL negligence cases ‘where an expert witness is required”.

Please see full article below for more information.

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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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