Is lawsuit reform working for Oklahoma?
Yes. No. Yes.
Yes it's working for defendants, particularly physicians. No it's not working for the trial bar and some (but certainly not all) of its clients. Yes it's working for Oklahoma's business-friendly image.
After a string of incremental reform, the jury has returned and rendered a split decision. The winners are businesses and professionals forced to defend marginal lawsuits. The losers are trial attorneys who had been filing those lawsuits and who now say they must weigh their cases more carefully.
Wasn't that the point?
The Tulsa World's Wayne Greene reports that the number of malpractice judgments is at the lowest level in a decade. Naturally, trial lawyers and their friends in the Legislature see this as a sign that the state is protecting the powerful at the expense of the poor. Emotion-laden, class warfare-laced rhetoric has been a staple of arguments against tort reform.
“It's just a matter of economics,” a leading trial lawyer told Greene about the trend toward declining more marginal cases.
Indeed, tort reform is about economics — for all of us. Defending marginal lawsuits is costly to the individuals being sued and to society. States with an image of being “judicial hellholes” aren't attractive to business owners or professionals. Oklahoma was never the “hellhole” that some states became, but it also was slow to embrace tort reform.