Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

Committee Approves Tort Reform Measure/measure Supported by Chamber Defeated

Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

Committee Approves Tort Reform Measure/measure Supported by Chamber Defeated

Article excerpt

A tort reform bill placing a seven-year statute of limitation on malpractice suits was passed by the Senate Judiciary and Retirement Committee Wednesday.

But a second tort reform measure endorsed by the Oklahoma State Chamber of Commerce and Industry was defeated by the Senate Rules Committee.

The Senate Judiciary and Retirement Committee unanimously approved Senate Bill 183 by Sen. Tim Leonard, R-Beaver. The bill now will be considered by the full Senate.

"This bill was based on fact and not on ancedote," said Sen. Stratton Taylor, D-Claremore.

Leonard said the bill places a seven-year statute of limitations on the filing of malpractice lawsuits against physicians.

"The medical profession is flooded with malpractice suits for alleged injuries which occurred years beforehand," Leonard explained. "As the years go by it becomes harder to prove the cause of an injury."

The bill provides that both a plantiff and his lawyer could be liable for court costs for filing frivolous lawsuits - an effort to cut down on the number of frivolous suits filed in courts across the state.

It also would codify current case law into the state statutes regarding joint and several liability, Leonard said. In the case of personal injury, property damage or wrongful death when the plantiff is found to be at some degree negligent in the liability, then "each defendant shall be liable only for the amount of damages allocated to that defendant in direct proportion to that defendant's percentage of fault."

Joint and several liability would be applied to defendants in cases where the plantiff was found to be totally without negligence.

Senate Bill 183 does not call for a cap on the amount awarded for non-economic damages. The issue has been discussed several times in the judiciary committee, where some insurance representatives have stated there is a need for such a cap, while others said a cap would have little or no effect on rates paid by consumers. …

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