OKLAHOMA CITY – State lawmakers on Tuesday blasted an e-mail from an
Oklahoma City law firm urging plaintiffs to file lawsuits prior to tort
reform legislation becoming law in November. House and Senate leaders
said the e-mail is proof trial attorneys fear the change will be
effective in limiting frivolous lawsuits.
The email, sent from
an attorney with the Merritt & Associates law firm last week, says
“Danger! Tort reform legislation effective November 1. File your
lawsuits now!” according to a statement from lawmakers.
email proves the new law is a significant step toward cutting down on
frivolous lawsuits while clearing the way for legitimate claims,
according to House Speaker Chris Benge.
“This email, while very
concerning, should serve as an example of why we passed tort reform,”
said Benge, R-Tulsa, in a prepared statement. “We believe the law
passed last session will have the effect of attracting businesses and
creating jobs in our state.”
For more than a decade, House and Senate Republicans have sought
reforms to Oklahoma’s justice system, where frivolous lawsuits have
increased health care costs and driven talented doctors out of our
state because of high malpractice insurance rates
priority when first elected to the State Senate eleven years ago was to
enact real and meaningful lawsuit reform in Oklahoma,” said Senate
President Pro Tem Glenn Coffee, R-Oklahoma City, in the statement.
“The activists in the Trial Bar fought this reform tooth and nail, and
some of them still can’t accept the new reality.
process of passing lawsuit reform, this particular law firm was
Oklahoma’s Chicken Little, and now they are proclaiming that the sky
will fall in November,” Coffee continued. “In fact, the skies will
open, and Oklahoma will open for business when HB 1603 goes into
Rep. Dan Sullivan, House author of this year’s lawsuit
reform legislation, House Bill 1603, said the email also falsely claims
joint and several liability is abolished by the bill. The legislation
limits joint and several liability to instances where a tortfeasor is
more than 50 percent liable.
“The attorney who sent this email
expressed deep opposition to change and tried to rally his colleagues
to try to stop reform. Now that he was unsuccessful in defending the
status quo, he is trying to encourage people to file lawsuits prior to
the law taking effect whether they have merit or not,” said Sullivan,
R-Tulsa. “This email is nothing but an opportunistic attempt to get
lawsuits on the books, regardless of their merit, by lawyers who will
go to any lengths to prey on vulnerable Oklahomans.”