The Edmond Sun

June 24, 2013

Bar association webcast covers 2013 laws

Tort reform will be key topic of discussion

James Coburn
The Edmond Sun

EDMOND — The Oklahoma Bar Association will present a webcast Wednesday to provide attorneys a legislative update for this past session. Viewers may tune-in from noon until 1:50 p.m., said attorney Ray Vaughn, Oklahoma County commissioner.

“It’s important for attorneys to stay up to speed with what the Legislature does,” said Vaughn, who will serve as moderator.

Other participants will include state Rep. Randy Grau, R-Edmond; state Rep. Kay Floyd, D-Oklahoma City, state Sen. David Holt, R-Oklahoma City. Attorneys will receive continuing education credits for viewing the course. The webast will cover 40-50 bills that were passed this session.

It’s difficult to keep up with the changes, Vaughn said. The Legislature passes about 400 bills each year that are signed into law. About 100 of those laws deal with appropriations, Vaughn said.

The webcast will be geared to the general practioner. Not all of the topics will relate to attorneys who specialize in one field, said Grau, whose expertise is in business law and civil litigation.

Proceedural changes in effect for attorneys will open the discussion, Grau said. Focus will turn to changes that impact attorneys whether they do civil work, criminal work, workers compensation or domestic law, Grau said. A recent opinion of the state Supreme Court related to tort reform will be addressed, he said.

The court rejected the Comprehensive Lawsuit Reform Act of 2009. The court ruled 7-2 that the Comprehensive Lawsuit Reform Act of 2009 violated the state constitution’s single-subject rule, Grau said.

House Bill 1603 provides that unless a defendant is more than 50 percent at fault, the defendant will only be charged its proportionate share of the injury award, according to the American Tort Reform Association.

A provision of HB 1603 authored by state Rep. Dan Sullivan, R-Tulsa, requires the filing of a certificate of merit when a lawsuit is filed. HB 1603 also caps pain and suffering awards at $400,000 outside of exceptional circumstances. A similar provision was passed in the state’s liability reform of 2003. That provision was struck down by the Oklahoma Supreme Court, but was rewritten for HB 1603.

“It’s kind of been frustrating for the Legislature because we seemed to have received mixed signals from the Supreme Court over the years of what is and is not a violation,” said Grau, who was first elected to the Legislature in 2010.

“If the Legislature wants to enact the reforms, then the court advises that the Legislature individually consider each of the acts within the CLRA of 2009,” Grau said.

State Sen. Kyle Loveless already has announced plans to file a series of bills that would restore some of the 2009 lawsuit reform measures.

“It was an important component of a long-term effort to help create more jobs and economic growth for our state,” said Loveless, R-Oklahoma City. “If the court will not allow us to address these in one measure, we can simply reapprove them as separate bills, which I believe Oklahomans agree with.”



FOR MORE information about Oklahoma Bar Association webcasts, visit http://my.okbar.org/CleCalendar/viewAsList?monthYear=2013-06.