Special Session Wrapping Up
OKLAHOMA CITY —
Five days at $30,000 per day equals $150,000 of projected spending on this year's special legislative session. The session met to address lawsuit reform, essentially breaking up a law the Supreme Court ruled violated the state's "single-subject" rule and putting it into individual pieces of legislation.
"It's a real good victory for Oklahoma," said Senator Kyle Loveless (R-Oklahoma City). Loveless supports the lawsuit reform measures and says the benefits of the legislation have already taken effect even though the original legislation was struck down.
"We've seen how doctors are not leaving the state as much as they were before. We've seen malpractice rates be more affordable to doctors. We've seen it to where businesses are able to thrive a little more without being under the fear of being sued," Loveless told Fox 25.
The session is set to wrap up Monday afternoon after both chambers pass the opposing chamber's bills. The bills would then end up on the Governor's desk, possibly by the end of Monday.
One of the biggest pieces to the debate was a proposal to require people claiming malpractice to get a third-party opinion to prove the case had merit before it would be allowed to go to trial. Critics argue that would make filing lawsuits too expensive for regular people without high-value damages.
"Most lawyers will take it on contingency, meaning they absorb the cost and then recoup it later and second if someone really is indigent, or really can't afford it, the court can waive the fee," Loveless argued.
"Most lawyers that I know are the type of people that want to help people not run out there and file a bunch of lawsuits in order to turn them over for a quick settlement," said consumer attorney Joe Carson.
Carson is opposed to the lawsuit reform, which would limit the amount of money juries can award in cases. "Our constitution provides that there is a remedy for every wrong," Carson said saying that while the legislation won't stop lawsuits it will make them more difficult.
The legislation is aimed at cutting down on the number of lawsuits and eliminating frivolous claims. Carson says it could potentially add to the number of lawsuits because it takes away any incentive companies have to settle lawsuits out of court. He pointed to a recent case he tried against the state of Oklahoma, which already has a $175,000 cap for damages.
"The state said we're not going to pay you $175,000 we don't have any incentive to do that. We can go try it to a jury because they might give less than that and if they give more than that all we're ever going to have to pay is $175,000," Carson recounted to Fox 25.
Supporters of the reforms say there might be individual cases that call specific elements of the legislation into question, but ultimately the new laws would help the entire state and attract more businesses to our borders. "We have to make policy decisions for the entirety of the state, not just individual cases," Loveless said.
The governor's office said even if the bills are received on Monday she will not sign them immediately. A spokesman said the legislation will still have to undergo the same legal review as any bill passed by the legislature.