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Lawsuits flood Oklahoma County Courthouse ahead of new law

The Oklahoma County District Courthouse on Monday saw a surge in lawsuits filed ahead of a new law taking effect Nov. 1. The law places a $350,000 cap on pain and suffering damages that a plaintiff can receive in a bodily injury lawsuit.
BY TIM WILLERT Published: November 1, 2011

The rush started around lunchtime and picked up again about an hour before closing.

In all, more than 400 lawsuits were filed in the Oklahoma County District Courthouse on Monday, the day before a new law limiting damage awards in civil cases takes effect.

“They're getting all of them in today,” said Teresa Becker, who heads the civil division of the court clerk's office.

On a typical day, Becker says between 50 and 70 personal injury lawsuits, mostly those of the automobile accident or medical negligence variety, are filed in her office.

Attorney Michael E. Grant, a partner with the Oklahoma City law firm of Musser, Kouri, Bentwood & Grant, filed six lawsuits in Oklahoma County and one in Comanche County on Monday.

Grant said the new law, which places a $350,000 cap on pain and suffering damages that a plaintiff can receive in a bodily injury lawsuit, won't affect most cases.

“It will affect some cases, which isn't fair, but the new caps aren't going to affect the vast majority of cases, he said.

Becker said 1,600 lawsuits were filed in October. Between 300 to 500 civil filings is a normal month, with 700 being considered a “busy” month.

Business started picking up last week, with 200 lawsuits filed on Wednesday, 200 filed on Thursday and 300 filed on Friday.

“We knew we'd be busy today, but we were able to accommodate everybody,” Oklahoma County Court Clerk Patricia Presley said. “We've been preparing ourselves for the last three weeks.”

Still, business was brisk Monday, prompting deputy clerk Megan McWilliams to call it “an 11” on a scale of 1 to 10.


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