Two lawsuit reform measures to Gov. Fallin’s desk
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Published: 29-Mar-2011

The Oklahoma House of Representatives today (Tuesday, March 29) passed two planks of the Governor’s lawsuit reform agenda. 

 The two bills moved to the governor’s desk roughly 24 hours after the chief executive, Mary Fallin, made a direct appeal to members of the Republican caucus to expedite passage of party priorities in both chambers.

 Supporters celebrated passage and insisted the measures will bring fairness and consistency to the state’s legal system.  The legislation now goes to Governor Fallin for her expected signature.

 Senate Bill 862, by Sen. Anthony Sykes of Moore and Rep. Dan Sullivan of Tulsa, creates a “fair share” rule, by which damages are allocated in proportion to fault.  (In essence, the new law would eliminate what is known as “joint and several liability.” Under current law, defendants can be held responsible for paying a higher portion of awards beyond the percentage of their fault, based on their ability to pay.) 

 Six Republicans, including state Rep. Randy Terrill  of Oklahoma City, opposed the measure. The bill passed the House with a vote of 64-32.

 S.B. 865, also by Sykes and Sullivan, will require that jury instructions include notification that no part of an award for damages for personal injury or wrongful death is subject to federal or state income tax.  It further will instruct that any amount that the jury determines to be proper compensation for personal injury or wrongful death should not be increased or decreased by any consideration for income taxes. 

 The bill passed the House with a vote of 65-30. Terrill and four other Republicans who had opposed S.B. 862 switched to support S.B. 865 on final passage. 

"These reforms are critical to bringing some cost certainty to the legal system for the business and medical community, all while protecting the courts for those with legitimate cases," said State Chamber President Fred Morgan. "We have an opportunity this legislative session to put in place meaningful lawsuit reform that will help our state attract investment and jobs and improve access to affordable, quality health care."

Note: Editor Patrick B. McGuigan contributed to this report. 

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