The Oklahoma House of Representatives passed Senate Bills 862 and 865 today by Rep. Dan Sullivan, R-Tulsa and Sen. Anthony Sykes, R-Moore, which would eliminate joint and several liability and require that juries receive accurate information regarding tax impact on awards. The measures are a critical part of the Republican lawsuit reform package supported by Governor Mary Fallin, House Speaker Kris Steele and Senate President Pro-Tempore Brian Bingman.
SB 862 removes a requirement that a defendant, in certain civil actions, will be jointly and severally liable for all damages if the defendant is found to be more than 50% at fault. Under current law, defendants can be held responsible for paying a higher portion of awards beyond the percentage of their fault to plaintiffs, based on their ability to pay. SB 862 would eliminate this practice. The measure passed the House by a 64-32 vote.
“I am extremely pleased by the House passage of these two measures,” said Steele. “Oklahoma lawmakers are taking the task of reforming our state’s legal system very seriously. SB 862 will protect and promote individual responsibility by providing accountability for those who cause injuries, while guarding against unfairly prosecuting individuals for the negligence of others. ”
"This legislation applies a common-sense standard to lawsuits, ensuring that each person is held responsible for his or her actions alone and not the actions of others," Sullivan said. "That is a reasonable approach which also reduces the incentive for individuals to file frivolous lawsuits."
The House also approved Senate Bill 865 by a vote of 65-30. It would instruct juries that no part of an award for damages for personal injury or wrongful death is subject to federal or state income tax and the jury should not consider income taxes when determining a proper compensation award.
Both measures now proceed to Governor Fallin’s desk.