Measure to Stop Junk Lawsuits Passes to Okla. Senate

March 10, 2005

The Oklahoma House Media Services Division reported that the House passed a lawsuit reform effort, approving a comprehensive measure designed to help boost the state’s economy while preventing abuse of Oklahoma’s legal system.

Lawmakers passed House Bill 2047, the Justice & Common Sense Act of 2005, by a vote of 62 to 38. The bill now moves to the state Senate for action.

“Working Oklahomans lose when jackpot justice and junk lawsuits clog our courts,” stated Speaker Todd Hiett (R-Kellyville), the author of the measure. “Though some good lawyers are trying to do what’s right, too many trial lawyers have become the new robber barons of the 21st century. They’re willing to abuse our legal system to line their own pockets. We’re going to put a stop that.”

“This measure brings common sense back to Oklahoma courtrooms,” said Rep. Fred Morgan (R-Oklahoma City), who is also an attorney. “People from all walks of life increasingly fear they could be the next target of a frivolous lawsuit. The people deserve a fair system. Frivolous lawsuits are preventing justice, and they’re hurting every Oklahoman.”

The Justice & Common Sense Act aims to create a stronger economic climate in Oklahoma, by reducing the harmful impact of lawsuit abuse.

Hiett said junk lawsuits hurt Oklahoma by ruining the lives of innocent people, by making health care more expensive, by preventing job growth and by levying a hidden tax on citizens.

“Lawsuits are like weapons, and they should only be used as a last resort,” Hiett said. “Today we’re all paying for lawsuit abuse. It hits us all in the pocketbook, and prevents economic growth in our state.”

To stop this systemic abuse, to allow good lawyers to take back their profession and to accelerate Oklahoma’s economy, Hiett says the Justice & Common Sense Act of 2005 will tackle four major areas of reform:

Quick and Fair Compensation for Injured People: The Justice and Common Sense Act of 2005 will make it easier for injured people (plaintiffs) and defendants with strong cases to win on summary judgment, rather than going through the painful, expensive and difficult process of a trial.

Cleaning Up Class Action: An important and legitimate part of Oklahoma’s legal system, class action suits in recent years have unfortunately turned into a shakedown racket for some trial lawyers. In one recent case against Jiffy Lube, attorneys collected millions in fees while the clients got coupons for car service. Cleaning up class action will address two areas.
–If clients get coupons, the lawyers get coupons.
–Limit “contingency” fees: Lawyers will be paid for the hours they actually work, just like everyone else in Oklahoma.

Reduce Health Care Costs for Hardworking Oklahomans:
–Putting limits on non-economic damages – Money for pain and suffering should be set at common sense levels. Right now, the system is too often abused, hurting both injured people and defendants.
–Greater freedom for doctors to give free care to disadvantaged and indigent Oklahomans: Doctors will be able to provide charity care without worrying about insurance.

Common Sense Protection for Business Owners:
–Lawyers sue businesses that make products that have already been approved by the federal government as safe. This will end under the new system.
–Choice-based products which everyone knows can be harmful – such as fast food – should not be subject to lawsuits.

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