The Democrat-led state Senate Judiciary Committee voted to kill
the House Republicans' major lawsuit reform bill on Tuesday.
Although both of this year's major lawsuit reform proposals are now
dead, the issue will certainly not be forgotten during the rest of
this session, lawmakers said.
The 7-4 party-line vote to kill House Bill 3120 after amendments
to improve the bill were rejected was called party politics at its
worst by advocates for physicians and businesses.
The Legislature is putting politics above the people, said Dr.
Bruce Storms, president of the Oklahoma State Medical Association.
Mike Seney, vice president of operations for The State Chamber,
I was extremely disappointed in our form of government, Seney
said. That's probably the worst I've felt in 15 years.
State Sen. Charlie Laster, D-Shawnee, chairman of the Senate
Judiciary Committee, said the 120-plus page bill, by House Speaker
Todd Hiett, R-Kellyville, was not salvageable by a few last-minute
This bill really is so flawed, it is my opinion that the author
of this bill put in several horrible provisions to make sure the
bill would not pass, thus the issue is kept alive for political
purposes, Laster said.
During the discussion and debate on the bill, which lasted an
hour and a half, Laster criticized certain portions of the bill that
even Republican members of the committee sought to remove. For
instance, the bill would have allowed an individual's life insurance
benefit to be deducted from a judgment against the company
responsible for his or her death. That is, if the victim had
insurance, the amount of coverage would be discounted from the
judgment against the defendant, even if fraudulence or negligence
Laster also criticized portions of the bill that would require
lawsuits against out-of-state companies to be filed out of state,
unless the case meets the $75,000 threshold to be held in federal
court. The bill also would have done away with contingency fees for
certain cases and contained a number of other provisions that would
have made it very difficult for royalty owners to take oil and gas
companies to court, Laster said.
State Sen. Brian Crain, R-Tulsa, said he agreed with some of
Laster's arguments and so submitted an amendment during the meeting
to address the issue. Other amendments by Crain and state Sen. James
Williamson, R-Tulsa, and state Sen. Scott Pruitt, R-Tulsa, addressed
various points brought up by Laster. However, the Democrat majority
on the committee voted to table each amendment, a procedural move to
get rid of the proposed changes.
I thought it was a good bill until he (Laster) started picking
apart these things, Crain said. I thought this was trying to be a
constructive situation. …