This summer, the Oklahoma Supreme Court threw out the bipartisan lawsuit reform measure that had been passed in 2009. Gov. Mary Fallin signaled her willingness to call a special session to address this ruling, but some in the Legislature reportedly have cold feet about a special session and would like to wait until next year. Oklahoma’s medical community can’t wait that long. I urge Fallin to call a special session as soon as possible.
The reforms passed in 2009, coupled with those passed in 2011, were beginning to pay dividends for Oklahoma physicians, reducing the number of frivolous malpractice claims and setting the stage for reining in the growth of medical liability premiums. These changes were making Oklahoma a friendlier and more attractive practice environment for physicians and their patients.
With the court’s decision, however, positive trends are in danger of being reversed. A special session is needed to make sure these important reforms are put back in place as soon as possible.
The ruling has opened the floodgates to new potential lawsuits from the past four years. If we wait until the next legislative session to address this issue, without the passage of an emergency clause that requires a two-thirds vote of both chambers of the Legislature, the earliest that any bill would take effect would be late August of 2014 — a full year of delay that would mean more lawsuits, higher insurance premiums and more delays for patients looking to find a doctor.