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Fallin Signs Civil Justice Bill Amid Criticism (Apr 05, 2011)

Governor Mary Fallin on Tuesday signed a sweeping bill overhauling the state’s civil justice system as a bi-partisan group of lawmakers urged her to closely examine the bill they say is unconstitutional before deciding to sign it.

The legislation would put a strict limit on the amount of money Oklahomans could get for their pain and suffering in civil lawsuits.

Four state Senators met at the state Capitol Tuesday afternoon to decry the provisions and the process behind House Bill 2128.

The legislation would limit the amount of money awarded to individual suing in the state to a hard cap of $350,000.

Republican State Senator Steve Russell said the bill will likely see a legal challenge.

“I believe it is a twisted set of morals that would put money and business interests ahead of an individual right guaranteed in our constitution,” Russell said.

Democratic State Senator Charlie Laster said he had amendments that might have helped make the bill constitutional, but no amendments were allowed in committee or heard on the Senate floor.

“The amendments that I had were simple ones that Oklahomans could understand, and I think the majority of people in the legislature would agree with,” Laster said. “That this artificial cap, this number of 350-thousand dollars, would not apply if someone was rendered quadriplegic, paraplegic, blind, or an amputee.”

The 350-thousand dollar cap does not apply to items like lost income and medical expenses. The House author of the bill, Speaker Kris Steele, says the legislation will curtail what he calls predatory lawsuits.

by Kurt Gwartney


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