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Okla. governor vetoes tort reform bill


OKLAHOMA CITY--Oklahoma Gov. Brad Henry has vetoed a major tort reform bill that would have altered procedures, requirements and rewards for class action lawsuits.

Gov. Henry issued a statement Saturday on Senate Bill 507, stating that he was working with lawmakers to address a number of legal concerns with the 130-page measure, but "time ultimately ran out" and he was forced to veto the bill.

He said he generally supports tort reform.

"I plan to continue the good-faith discussions that began several days ago in hopes of reaching a consensus and passing a comprehensive reform package before the legislature adjourns at the end of May," Gov. Henry said in the statement in which he cited concerns with the bill.

A chief concern was that the measure "tied the state's hands in legal actions designed to protect the citizenry, and the legislation did little to curb frivolous lawsuits, the chief complaint of many business owners."

Oklahoma Attorney General Drew Edmondson had asked the governor to veto the legislation, saying parts of the bill would severely hamper the state in its litigation.

"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," the attorney general said in a statement. "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."

The legislation, as passed by the House and Senate, included:

  • A definition of frivolous lawsuits;
  • A cap on the amount of punitive damages that could be awarded;
  • Changes to the way class action suits are filed;
  • Requirements for both expert and lay witnesses in any case.