Tort Stories: Claims and Liability in Okla

Article excerpt

In the world of lawsuits and damages, those in the medical field aren't the only ones fighting claims and clamoring for reform.

Government claims

Oklahoma City attorney Carson M. Brooks, of Haupt Brooks Vandruff Cloar, has represented an elderly man who was injured and his wife killed when their car was struck by an Oklahoma City police car en route to a robbery.

Brooks said the couple was leaving church and had turned on Western Avenue. At that same time, a police officer was speeding on Western Avenue at an estimated 60 to 70 mph in a 30-mph zone. The couple was hit by the police car as it crested a hill.

Brooks said the city at first claimed the couple should have seen the lights on the police car and heard the siren. He argued that since the police car crested a hill, the couple would have been unaware it was approaching.

As a result of the crash, the husband, who was driving, sustained major injuries. His wife, in the passenger seat, was hospitalized for months before dying from her injuries.

Brooks said the wife had accumulated about $1 million in hospital bills. The couple was insured, but they could only recover $175,000 from the city.

Brooks said the Government Tort Claims Act, set up by the state Legislature, puts in place a cap of $175,000 when an individual is injured as the result of actions of a government employee - such as a police officer - while on duty.

Brooks said it was unfortunate that in such circumstances the victim is only entitled to that amount.

More than the money, Brooks said the plaintiffs wanted to see a policy and procedure change for police officers en route to a crime.

Brooks said some of the tort reform legislation proposed in recent years could have benefited the couple, but said tort reform must be specific to the situation to hold the party or entity that caused harm responsible for its actions. …