Okla. Senate GOP Claims Democrats Aided Lawyers in Tort Reform Battle

Oklahoma Senate Republicans are playing hardball, claiming in a news release that trial lawyers won an early victory in the legislative lawsuit reform battle with the help of Democrat “allies” in the state Senate.

The Republicans said by failing to hear during the Senate Judiciary Committee a Republican-sponsored lawsuit reform bill, Senate Bill 1857, Sen. Charles Laster, the Democrat chairman of the committee, effectively killed the measure.

SB 1857 is authored by Senate Republican Leader Glenn Coffee, R-Oklahoma City, and Speaker of the House Todd Hiett, R-Kellyville.

“This fight isn’t over yet. Republicans will continue our battle to help protect doctors and small businesses from lawsuit abuse – even though Senate Democrats have given the trial lawyers a victory in the first round,” Coffee pledged.

“The Democrat leaders of the State Senate continue to practice government of, by, and for the trial lawyers,” stated Coffee. “Senate Democrats have spent the past 100 years designing a legal system that encourages lawsuit abuse. If Senate Democrats have their way, lawsuit abuse will remain alive and well for the next 100 years in the state of Oklahoma.”

In a statement released by his office, Laster said the Democrats’ version of lawsuit reform, Senate Bill 1874, “The Lawsuit Responsibility Act of 2006, which passed out of the Judiciary Committee last week, contains reforms that will save money for small businesses in Oklahoma by eliminating more frivolous lawsuits on the front end of the system.

“Senate Bill 1874 will make lawsuits move through the system in a timely manner. It includes added protections for doctors and prohibits those outrageous lawsuits against fast food chains by someone claiming that cheeseburgers made them fat.

“My bill also urges the Supreme Court to promulgate rules to regulate television advertising by attorneys in a manner that will help create a culture of greater personal responsibility in our state.

“This legislation passed out of committee on an 8-0 vote. Every Democrat and every Republican voted for it in committee and I expect that same kind of support for the measure when it’s heard on the floor next month.”