Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

Chance for Tort Reform Slim, Says A.C. Holden / Hooper Hopeful

Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

Chance for Tort Reform Slim, Says A.C. Holden / Hooper Hopeful

Article excerpt

Because of the proposed short session of the Oklahoma Legislature and the Senate's attitudes toward changes in the civil justice system, the likelihood for meaningful tort reform this year is slim in the opinion of Rep. A.C. Holden, D-Dewey.

However, Sen. Butch Hooper, D-Lawton, is hopeful some tort reform measures will be passed by the Legislature, particularly in the area of product liability.

Last week, the Select Committee on Insurance Rates and Tort Claims adopted a set of recommendations which called for a cap on non-economic damages (such as pain and suffering) and a statute of limitations on product liability claims.

However, Holden, vice chairman of the committee, said he does not plan to author any tort reform bills this session. Holden does not feel this is the year for any meaningful tort reform measures to get through the Legislature.

"I'm not a prophet," he said, "but candidly, I don't know whether we will have time to get into battles on tort reform in this short session."

Passing a state budget and adjourning is the priority of the majority this session. As chairman of the House Subcommittee on Natural Resources and Regulatory Services, Holden is authoring 15 appropriation bills, which cuts into his time for other legislative matters.

Besides the lack of time, Holden said another major consideration is the Senate's attitude toward tort reform.

Attempts to push major tort reform, such as Hooper's Senate Bill 134 (which provided for a cap on non-economic damages and other reforms), were defeated in the Senate last year, Holden said, so it would be pointless to attempt another effort this year.

"It would be senseless to put my collegues in the Senate in the situation where they sponsor a bill only to experience the futility of having it die or cut to ribbons," Holden stated. "It is my suggestion that due to a lack of interest in passing any meaningful reform we wait until next year."

Holden is hopeful there will be a change in attitude toward tort reform in the session beginning in 1989, he said.

While Hooper suffered the setback of having his tort reform bill killed in committee last year, he has not given up hope some civil justice reforms can be made this year. …

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