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Oklahoma Republicans continue to move corporate lawsuit immunity bills through the legislature.
On Thursday, the House Judiciary Committee approved a measure that would require people pay for expensive expert opinions before they could file a civil lawsuit. House Bill 1570, sponsored by Colby Schwartz, a Yukon Republican, requires plaintiffs to submit an affidavit with their lawsuit certifying they have consulted an expert about the lawsuit’s contentions.
According to one lawmaker, state Rep. Ryan Kiesel, a Seminole Democrat, such opinions could cost from $500 to $5,000.
If the bill makes it into law, it would mean someone suing a corporation for negligence couldn’t file a lawsuit unless they paid steep costs upfront. This would obviously deny many people access to the state’s legal system. The bill, which now moves to the full House, would deny people basic legal rights.
Earlier, a bill capping contingency fees for attorneys was approved by the same committee. I also wrote about that bill.
These measures are part of an overall Republican effort here to deny people access to the legal system, thus protecting the interests of big corporations, such as insurance companies. Their claim, which they make under the nomenclature of tort “reform,” is that there are too many frivolous lawsuits, which has been consistently refuted.
In a recent press release, Ivan Holmes, the state Democratic Party chair, put it this way:
The Republican Party has made ‘tort reform’ or what I call ‘corporate immunity’ their number one issue and the Democratic Party will make it our number one issue.
It is going to come down to who do you want to protect, big insurance companies or the little guy. We are going to prove that it is the insurance companies who are the villains when it comes to so-called ‘tort reform’ and the Republicans have sided with them.
Lawyers are hired by the citizens to help them fight for their individual rights while insurance companies have one goal–to make as much profit as possible at the expense of the policy holders.
The press release statement pointed to a study by the Consumer Federation of America that showed insurance companies made $157 billion in profits over three years. It also referred to a New England Journal of Medicine study that showed only 2 percent of people hurt by physician negligence ever file a lawsuit.
Does anyone really think-this includes Republicans-insurance rates will go down if this legislation becomes law? Really?
The press release also posed these questions:
How important is it to you to have the freedom to select your doctor rather than having insurance companies determine your doctor?
How important is it for your doctor to have the freedom to determine your treatment rather than the insurance companies?
How important is it for you to have the freedom to hire a lawyer of your choice to represent you when you feel an injustice has been done?
How important is it for you to have a judge or jury determine the extent of damages you deserve rather than politicians?
Last year, Gov. Brad Henry vetoed corporate immunity legislation. Will he do it again with Republican majorities in both the House and Senate?
(This was cross posted in Okie Funk.–Kurt Hochenauer?