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Governor's veto disturbs Republicans' latest lawsuit reform efforts



Gov. Brad Henry vetoed a Republican-driven bill to reform lawsuits May 7.

House Bill 2458, described as a "modest" attempt at lawsuit reform, would have required civil litigants to obtain an expert opinion backing their claim before actually filing the case with a state court. The measure passed the Senate back in April and was approved by the state House of Representatives on May 7.

But within an hour of the House vote, the governor's office was already sending word out this bill would not make it into law.

"Because the Oklahoma Supreme Court has already struck down a similar statute as unconstitutional, Gov. (Brad) Henry will have no choice but to veto the legislation," the governor's press secretary, Paul Sund, stated in a press release.

The state Supreme Court ruling Sund referenced came in 2004, a year after the Legislature passed and Henry signed into law a major lawsuit reform bill, which established new guidelines ranging from court fees to expert opinions. It was the expert part of the bill, known as the certificate of merit, the court had trouble with. In an 8-1 decision, the court nullified the law on the grounds the certificate was specified toward one area of limitation " medical malpractice " and would have added extra costs to plaintiffs the court deemed unfair.

HB 2458 tried to address that problem.

"This attempted to broaden it to provide for all cases "¦ whether it's attorney cases or survey cases " any type of professional case," Senate Republican Co-Floor Leader Owen Laughlin said.

The certificate of merit language was not in the original form of the bill. It changed during the Senate vote when Sen. Susan Paddack, D-Ada, introduced her amendment to add the certificate language. The bill then unanimously passed the Senate.

Sund said the governor had warned supporters of the bill his concerns about the amended language. When the bill came up for a vote in the House, it passed strictly along party lines, 55-44.

"Rather than remove the unconstitutional provision, they chose to proceed with the flawed language," Sund said. "As a result, the governor will have to veto the bill." "Scott Cooper


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