Friday, April 27, 2007

Edmondson urges tort reform bill veto

Oklahoma Attorney General Drew Edmondson is urging Gov. Brad Henry to veto Senate Bill 507, a tort reform bill that passed the House and Senate. According to the Governor's bill tracker (click here) Henry has until Saturday to sign or veto the bill.

Read John Greiner's report from the Oklahoman's Capitol Bureau below:

By John Greiner
Capitol Bureau

Attorney General Drew Edmondson urged Gov. Brad Henry on Thursday to veto a tort reform bill, saying it could hamper the state's ability to file lawsuits on behalf of the state and its people.

Senate Bill 507, often called the tort reform or lawsuit reform bill, makes major changes in the way lawsuits are tried in court, Edmondson said.

"While the state is often a defendant in civil cases, and we welcome reform efforts in many regards, it is important to remember that the state is sometimes a plaintiff,” Edmondson said. "Our ability to pursue actions on behalf of the state or the people of the state will be severely crippled if this bill becomes law.”

His arguments

•He said the provisions requiring expert affidavits within 60 days of filing a petition would have made the tobacco lawsuit and the current poultry lawsuit impossible, Edmondson said.

•"Likewise, it would make similar efforts to protect Grand Lake, Wister, Broken Bow or any of the other watersheds virtually impossible,” he said.

•If an expert affidavit stating the lawsuit has merit isn't filed, the case can be dismissed, according to the legislation.

•The bill would make litigation more lengthy and expensive for the state, he said.

•"We sued big tobacco and have recovered more than one-half of $1 billion for the state thus far. We have had recoveries for Oklahoma from major pharmaceutical companies, financial corporations, the music industry, sweepstakes companies and many others,” Edmondson said.

"These lawsuits have never been frivolous. Our ability to protect Oklahoma and its people in the future will be severely hampered if this bill becomes law.”

The other side

•Co-Senate President Pro Tempore Glenn Coffee said national business and medical communities are watching Oklahoma to see what Henry does with the bill, Senate Bill 507. "I really believe by signing this bill he can show that Oklahoma is a business-friendly and doctor-friendly state ...,” said Coffee, R-Oklahoma City.

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