Oklahomans could benefit from well-designed 'loser pays' law

The Oklahoman Editorial Published: May 6, 2013

Carrollton (Texas) Creekview High had to defend a Title IX lawsuit filed by the mother of a former cheerleader who didn't make the current year's squad. The Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals not only knocked that one down, but declared the lawsuit “a petty squabble, masquerading as a civil rights matter, that has no place in federal court or any other court.”

A 2010 report by California Citizens Against Lawsuit Abuse found 12 California school districts spent $98.7 million fighting litigation in just three fiscal years. The group said that sum would cover 1,530 teachers' salaries.

Outside education, the National Federation of Independent Business says small businesses are often targeted by sketchy lawsuits because settlement is usually cheaper than a courtroom battle. NFIB notes small-business settlements are often less than $5,000, but those smaller payoffs total $35.6 billion annually.

Not all lawsuits are frivolous. Not every person who files an unsuccessful lawsuit is a huckster. Vague laws often require litigation to obtain legal clarity. But in cases where the courts find a lawsuit is clearly without merit, a carefully designed “loser pays” law could cause plaintiffs and their lawyers to think twice before pursuing them.

Parents of children with special needs shouldn't face harassment lawsuits. Neither should any other Oklahoman.

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