Oklahoma Lawmakers Forge Agreement on Lawsuit Reform Package

May 12, 2009

Oklahoma Senate President Pro Tem Glenn Coffee and House Speaker Chris Benge have announced that a compromise has been reached on a long sought comprehensive lawsuit reform package for the state.

Coffee and Benge and their representatives have been in discussions with representatives of the trial bar and mineral owners for several weeks, and a framework of agreement has been reached on a wide array of issues. Final language will be drafted, and the legislation will go to the House for approval, then to the Senate.

The agreement is multi-faceted, including several key components of reform aimed at improving health care access to all Oklahomans, as well as protecting the health and viability of small business’ in the state.

Some of the major reforms agreed upon in the 2009 Oklahoma Lawsuit Reform Agreement include:

Class action reforms as set out below:

  • Adoption of an expanded federal rule (#2023) as a foundation for class actions in Oklahoma;
  • Specific procedures and guidelines set out the court must follow in appointing an attorney to represent the class;
  • Specific findings that must be included in an order certifying a class;
  • More specific information that must be included in the notice provided to potential class members if a class is certified;
  • More specific court oversight of the case, particularly regarding dismissals and settlements;
  • Limiting non-resident membership in state class actions;
  • Allowing the court to stay, transfer or dismiss a case if it should be heard in another court;
  • Requiring the appellate court to immediately review certification orders using the de novo standard;
  • Allowing the appellate court to also review orders determining whether the class has exhausted administrative procedures;
  • Requiring the case to be stayed while an appeal of the certification order is pending;
  • Providing that settlements in which coupons are awarded, the attorney shall also receive his fee in coupons; and,
  • Providing specific guidelines the court must follow in awarding attorney fees to the attorney representing the class, which includes allowing the court to appoint an independent attorney to represent the class during the fee hearing.

Appeal Bond Cap – $25 million and no appeal bond required on punitive damage appeals

Joint & Several Liability

  • Limits liability to instances where a tortfeasor is more than 50 percent at fault.

Cap on Non-Economic Damages

  • In any action arising from a claimed bodily injury, the amount of compensation which a trier of fact may award a plaintiff for noneconomic loss shall not exceed $400,000.00.
  • In any civil action arising from a claimed bodily injury, the amount of compensation which the trier of fact may award a plaintiff for economic loss shall not be subject to any limitation.

For a more complete list of agreed upon components of the legislation see the Web site of the Oklahoma Legislature, www.lsb.state.ok.us.

Source: Oklahoma Legislature

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