I previously posted about new tort reform measures being pushed in the Oklahoma legislature.  A new article in the Tulsa World talks about measures the Oklahoma Bar is taking to counter the unreasonable proposals.  The litany of tort reform measures being pushed include a cap of $300,000 on pain and suffering damages, a requirement that plaintiff hire an expert witness to certify a lawsuit has merit, a limit on attorney’s contingency fees, and attempts to allow the legislature power over the body that appoints judges.

The Bar Association says the measures will “hamper the rights of ordinary citizens to have their day in court”  and give the legislature the power to “set the amount of damages that can be awarded in every case, replacing the constitutional right of citizens to have their case determined by a jury of their peers”.  The Bar Association also believes the free market should set the fee lawyers charge, not the government. 

These are old tricks from the reformer playbook.  The contingency fee allows average citizens to be able to afford legal representation of the same caliber as the corporations and insurance companies they have to sue to enforce their rights. 

The cap on pain and suffering is another classic from the reformer’s playbook.  Plaintiff’s who are entitled to pain and suffering damages of more than $300,000 are the most profoundly affected of plaintiffs.  They have sustained life changing injuries and usually will never be the same.  They are not filers of frivolous lawsuits.  They are the severely injured.  So the tort reformers say caps are needed to prevent jackpot justice and to prevent those who are least deserving from collecting on frivolous matters.  But that isn’t what the cap does.  It prevents the most severely injured from getting the help they need.  Sick.

As to the issue of changing the system for appointment of judges, that is yet another tort reformer classic.  They are constantly looking to change the way the judiciary is elected, apointed, etc.  If judges are elected in a jurisdiction, they say the power to elect judges should be taken out of the hands of people (average citizens are dangerous).  If judges are appointed, as in Oklahoma, they say the legislature should have more power in appointing the judges, to give the “people” more say in the process.  Yeah right.

Good luck to the people of Oklahoma.  Hopefully insurance companies and corporations won’t be successful in completely taking over the state, especially if one of the insurance companies is AIG.

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