House Bill Targets Frivolous Lawsuits

The state House approves legislation requiring an expert opinion confirming professional negligence before a lawsuit can be filed.
House Bill 1570, by state Rep. Colby Schwartz, would require a plaintiff in a civil lawsuit for professional negligence to attach to the petition an affidavit attesting that a
“reasonable interpretation of the facts supports a finding that the acts or omissions of the defendant … constituted professional negligence.”
“Frivolous lawsuits are clogging our courts and increasing health care costs for all Oklahomans,” said Schwartz, R-Yukon. “It isn’t unreasonable to seek independent, expert advice about a case’s merit before it goes to trial.”
The affidavit must state that the plaintiff has consulted a qualified expert and that the qualified expert has provided a written opinion stating that the facts support a finding that the defendant was professionally negligent.
The bill would provide for dismissal of the suit without prejudice if the affidavit is not attached to the petition and also provides for an extension of time to file the affidavit. The legislation allows that the affidavit would not be admissible in court.
“Opponents claim tort reform blocks the courthouse doors for those wrongfully injured, but this bill does just the opposite,” Schwartz said. “It clears the way for cases with merit to come to trial as swiftly as possible. The only people who should worry about this bill are those planning to file frivolous lawsuits. It’s that simple.”
The governor signed similar legislation applying only to medical malpractice cases in 2004. That law was later thrown out by the state Supreme Court in 2006 because it was too narrowly tailored to apply to just one industry. As a result, legal experts believe House Bill 1570 will be upheld because it applies to all cases.
House Bill 1570 passed the Oklahoma House of Representatives on a 56-38 vote today and now proceeds to the state Senate.

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