Reddirtreport.com has an eluquently written summation of what his happening at the Oklahoma Capitol regarding the impending corporate immunity bills being pressed by State Chamber Establishment Republicans. It states
A buzz is growing in Oklahoma political circles this week following Gov. Mary Fallin’s “State of the State” speech on Monday and her sudden calls for tort reform, an issue not emphasized during her 2010 gubernatorial campaign.
Fallin stated: “I’m also asking our legislators to work with me to get a lawsuit reform package signed into law, one that includes a hard cap of $250,000 for non-economic damages. We believe in justice for every Oklahoman. But we don’t believe in jackpot justice. And excessive awards for non-economic damages hurt businesses, destroy jobs and give a bad name to a legal system whose professionals are, for the most part, dedicated to ensuring fair outcomes for all parties.”
And taking up the charge in the Senate is Sen. Anthony Sykes who has already authored Senate Bill 863, which would allow injured parties to receive no more than $250,000 “regardless of the number of parties against whom the action is brought or the number of actions brought.”
Sykes has received a lot of heat for introducing this tort-reform bill, particularly among Tea Party conservatives like David Tackett and his Broken Arrow-based Oklahomans for Liberty.
I wanted to summarize these bills for our readers. I’m frankly appalled and angry at these so called conservatives so please forgive any grammatical and/or spelling errors as my fingers fling at the keyboard in frustration. Here is my summation.
Senate Bill 863 by Oklahoma Chamber Senator Anthony Sykes places hard caps on non economic damages at $250,000. In Oklahoma, current law already contemplates caps put they can be lifted where someone suffers permanent abnormality, disfigurement, loss of limb, impairment to body organ and/or a loss that has left them permanently unable to care and provide for themselves and perform life sustaining activities.
If you’re for equal rights and/or pro life you should be against this bill which places a hard cap and makes no exception for those grievously injured. It discriminates against kids and disvalues the life of the unborn. For example, one of the more significant injuries that can be inflicted upon women is harm to reproductive capacity. However, that type of injury does not impact her earning capacity or entitle her to recover economic damages despite the devastating emotional impact that such a loss may cause.
As a conservative, you have to ask yourself the following questions regarding these caps:
- If the constitution allows for common law suits and guarantees access to the courthouse without prejudice, how is it constitutional to arbitrarily place low limits on noneconomic damages.
- Would you be comfortable with Nancy Pelosi, Harry Reid and Obama deciding the amount a jury should award you if you were injured? In the same token what makes you think Fallin, Bingman, Steele and Sykes have the inherent knowledge to know what caps should be?
- Why $250,000.00 versus $400,000.00 versus $700,000.00 versus $1,000,000.00? If the purpose of caps is to guard against “jackpot justice” and “run away jury verdicts” then what is the purpose of setting the number so arbitrarily low?
- Who came up with the $250,000.00? *Hint* – It’s the Chamber crowd.
- If we can trust a jury to take end a man’s life in a criminal case, why can’t we trust them to award damages in a civil lawsuit?
- Where are the examples of outrageous verdicts in Oklahoma? You know these politicians would be flinging them before the news organizations as fast as they could if they were real. Plus, Senator Sykes in committee hearing was asked to provide proof of these verdicts and he could not.
- Why is the Establishment trying to push this through so fast without debate?
If you think caps are bad, wait till you understand Senate Bill 864 by Chamber Senator Sykes. This Bill abolishes what in legal terms is called the collateral source rule. In a lawsuit, Plaintiffs are never allowed to mention that a Defendant has insurance and conversely Defendants can never mention when a Plaintiff damages has been paid by a “collateral source”. If the above bill passes, an at-fault party will have the benefit of any collateral source a Plaintiff has purchased and paid premiums for. These sources will include life insurance, health insurance, disability insurance et. al. This bill will give a credit to the at-fault for any monies recovered under any collateral source, that is they will get to deduct those amounts from any judgment. This bill will also cost tax payers millions of dollars in loss reimbursements for medicaid.
An example of the devastating and unconservative effects of Senate Bill 864 would be where a drunk intoxicated semi driver from a company in Mexico traveling in the US pursuant to all the free trade agreements hits and kills your spouse. Your spouse had paid $500.00 per year the last 15 years to purchase a $1,000,000.00 life insurance policy. You file a lawsuit on behalf of your spouse seeking damages for his or her death. The jury returns a verdict for $1,000,001.00. How much money does your family get? $1.00. Your attorney loses the $100,000 he or she spent in costs prosecuting the trucking company and the attorney fee is 33 cents. You don’t get credit for the premiums you paid. The Mexican trucking company is left off the hook because you were a prudent citizen.
Under Senator Sykes Senate Bill 866 the insurance company would get to make periodic payments to you for any verdict in excess of $100,000.00. Plus guess who gets to keep the interest? Does the injured party get interest on his or money? No. The insurance company gets to keep that. Where is the personal responsibility? Isn’t this the utmost form of government interference in telling a citizen you are not responsible enough to get all your money so we will make a law where the at fault party keeps it. Further, what if the at fault party goes out of business or files bankruptcy? Guess what, you don’t get your money to help for your injuries leaving us tax payers to pick up the rest.
A great example of these laws would be a victim who was at the capitol for the committee hearing but wasn’t allowed to speak due to the tyrannical actions of Senator Sykes and Johnson. Fellow Republican trial lawyer Fletcher Handley was at the hearing with an old client whom he represented over 10 years ago when that client’s daughter, then 14, was terribly injured in a church van accident on I-35 near Norman while on the way to Falls Creek church camp. Of course Senator Sykes and Senator Johnson did not allow this person to speak (even though in the past constituents have always been allowed to speak).
Mr. Handley best describes the impact of these tort bills as it relays to his former client. This is his summation of the effects:
The bottom line is that if his former client were injured today, under these bills, the negligent party would get credit for her medical bills, because those were paid by her insurance company (SB 864). They would get credit for whatever she recovered in medical payments coverage or uninsured motorists coverage from her parents policies (SB 864). She couldn’t prove any future loss of income, because she wasn’t employed, but if she could prove future medical bills, the defendant’s insurance company could pay them out over time (SB 866). Even if she endured months and months of excruciating pain, due to scarring and skin grafts, with a lifetime of disfigurement and maybe the inability to conceive a child, the most she could recover would be $250,000 (SB 863) and if the party most responsible only had a $25,000 insurance policy, she couldn’t get the rest of that from the other responsible defendant or his insurance company. (SB 862) On top of that we’ll tell the jury this windfall is tax free (SB 864).
Please contact your Oklahoma State Senators and Represenatives and let them know you have had enough of these corporate welfare bills and if they don’t start adhering to the will of the people they will be replaced in the next election cycle. Self preservation is about the only thing they are willing to listen to aside from the huge donations they are recieving from big insurance and big business.