For Immediate Release: April 19, 2007
Senator Glenn Coffee
Senate Sends Bipartisan Lawsuit Reform
Legislation to Gov. Henry
The evenly divided Oklahoma Senate voted Thursday
to send a bipartisan, comprehensive lawsuit reform bill to Gov.
Brad Henry’s desk. The Senate passed Senate Bill 507,
authored by Sen. Cliff Branan, R-Oklahoma City, on a bipartisan
25 to 23 vote.
The bill’s supporters praised the passage
of the historic legislation.
“Four years ago Gov. Henry promised to bring
‘Texas Plus’ tort reform to Oklahoma. SB 507 includes
18 of the 28 reforms proposed by the governor, and his signature
on this bill will help Oklahoma catch up with states like Texas,”
stated Senate Co-President Pro Tempore Glenn Coffee, R-Oklahoma
City. “Oklahoma needs meaningful lawsuit reform to help
attract jobs and to make health care more affordable and available.”
“The passage of SB 507 is a major step forward
for the people of Oklahoma. I encourage Gov. Henry to take a
stand for bipartisanship, for jobs, and for quality health care
by signing this good legislation into law,” said Branan.
“Today’s vote shows that it is a new
day in the Oklahoma Senate. The trial lawyers have finally lost
their stranglehold in the Legislature’s upper chamber,
and that’s great news for the people of Oklahoma,”
stated Senate Judiciary Committee Co-Chairman James A. Williamson,
“It was very disappointing to see the misinformation
campaign conducted in an effort to defeat this bill –
especially as the legislation relates to class action lawsuits
by royalty owners. The fact is, SB 507 does not impede these
lawsuits, and it actually provides protections for royalty owners
by allowing an independent attorney to be appointed to represent
the class when attorneys’ fees are determined. Under the
old law, class members are not represented when attorneys ask
for fees,” stated Senate Republican Floor Leader Owen
HIGHLIGHTS OF SB 507:
- Caps non-economic damages at an inflation-adjusted
rate of $300,000 unless the jury finds “clear and convincing
evidence” that the defendant was grossly negligent, or
acted intentionally or with malice. There is no limit on economic
- Requires that in a professional liability action, the jury
may award punitive damages only if they find “by clear
and convincing evidence” that the defendant has been guilty
of intentional or gross negligence.
- Better defines what “frivolous”
means and makes such lawsuits easier to dismiss.
- Provides teachers, principals, and other school
professionals the tools they need to undertake reasonable actions
to maintain order, discipline, and an appropriate educational
environment without the threat of lawsuits.
Joint & Several Liability
- Eliminates joint and several liability, also
known as the “deep pockets” rule, thereby making
every defendant responsible for only its own fault. This prevents
trial lawyers from “fishing” for deep pockets to
- Provides protections for plaintiffs by requiring
an independent attorney to be appointed to represent the class
in the awarding of attorney fees.
- Protects plaintiffs from being included in a class action
lawsuit without his/her consent.
- Exempts firearms manufacturers from liability
when someone misuses their products.
- Clarifies the old definition of “volunteer”
thus providing for clearer immunity from liability, and clarifies
where such volunteer medical services were provided.
- Protects restaurants and food manufacturers
from lawsuits claiming they are responsible for the eating habits
of their customers.
- Requires that if the plaintiff is using an expert
witness to prove liability, that the plaintiff file a written
opinion of the expert within sixty days of filing the lawsuit
showing why the expert believes that liability exists. Sets
out the rules for testimony by lay witnesses and experts thus
protecting against “junk science” being introduced.
- Restricts the assessment of prejudgment interest
until 36 months following the filing of a lawsuit, and sets
the calculation of prejudgment interest at the average “T-Bill”
- Allows for the admissibility of evidence showing
that a plaintiff, or child of a plaintiff, was not wearing their
For more information contact:
Senator Coffee's Office: (405) 521-5654