Oklahoma Supreme Court Strikes Down Celebrated Tort Reforms

Weeks after Oklahoma’s Supreme Court struck down a state tort reform law, the American Tort Reform Association (ATRA) has publicly denounced the ruling, which it deems unfair.

The Supreme Court ruled on June 4 that Oklahoma’s 2009 reform package, which featured reforms of class action suits, liability reforms, changes to science testimony rules, and more, was unconstitutional because it violated the state constitution’s “single subject” rule, which bars the passage of legislation that involves several subjects.

“This bill is unconstitutional and void in its entirety,” wrote Justice Noma Gurich in the 7-2 ruling.
Senate President Pro Tem Brian Bingman said the Oklahoma Senate will work to pass individual pieces of legislation to achieve the reforms that the Supreme Court struck down, which Governor Mary Fallin called an obstacle for businesses.

ATRA issued a statement in June that called the Supreme Court’s decision disrespectful to the state government’s “hard-won” compromises. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce called the 2009 act “one of the single most significant legislative packages signed into law this year and a blueprint for all states in need of tort reform.” ATRA president Tiger Joyce claimed that Oklahoma’s “high court has taken it upon itself to usurp the prerogatives of the proper policy-making branches of government.”

“Every Oklahoman who is tired of costly lawsuit abuse should feel insulted by the high court majority and its apparent willingness, on such specious constitutional grounds, to obstruct the will of the people,” Joyce said.

If nothing is done to address the court’s reasons for rejecting this legislation, it could sweeping effects on both accident victims and the lawyers who represent them.