Oklahoma Supreme Court Declares Comprehensive Lawsuit Reform Act of 2009 Unconstitutional

The Oklahoma legislature enacted the Comprehensive Lawsuit Reform Act of 2009, or H.B. 1603, to limit corporate liability for personal injury by curbing the availability of class actions and limiting product liability cases. H.B. 1603 placed fairly onerous requirements to bring a case to court.

However, in Douglas v. Cox Retirement Properties, Inc., the Oklahoma Supreme Court threw out H.B. 1603, claiming that the statute violated the constitutional prohibition against logrolling. The opinion stated that “Logrolling is the practice of ensuring the passage of a law by creating one choice in which a legislator or voter is forced to assent to an unfavorable provision to secure passage of a favorable one, or conversely, forced to vote against a favorable provision to ensure an unfavorable provision is not enacted.”

Logrolling is anti-democratic because it makes legislation veto-proof. Oklahoma requires that statutes conform to the single subject rule.

Although defenders of H.B. 1603 claimed that it was a comprehensive tort reform act, the Oklahoma Supreme Court held that “H.B. 1603 contains 90 sections, encompassing a variety of subjects that do not reflect a common, closely akin theme or purpose.” The Court then proceeded to invalidate the law in its entirety.

The case got to the Supreme Court when the plaintiff in a wrongful death action against a nursing home failed to submit an expert’s “affidavit of merit” with or shortly after the filing of the complaint. When the plaintiff failed to file the affidavit of merit, the trial court granted defendant’s motion to dismiss.  The Oklahoma Supreme Court reversed.

Oklahoma residents deserve access to justice, using the laws and courts to secure their rights and privileges of citizenship. Stipe Law Firm’s personal injury lawyers knowledgeable about Oklahoma law can use the law to redress negligence and product failures. Contact us today.

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