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Oklahoma lawmakers working to fix amendment that could affect civil lawsuits

The Oklahoma House votes on HB 2414 on May 17, 2017. (KFOR/Bill Miston)

OKLAHOMA CITY –  An oversight that lawyers claim could have had disastrous effects on civil lawsuits across Oklahoma is being addressed in a new bill.

House Bill 1470 aimed to extend the statute of limitations for victims of child sex crimes.

The bill started in the House then moved to the Senate, where Sen. Anthony Sykes added language that inadvertently affected every civil lawsuit filed in Oklahoma.

“There are quite a few lawyers in both bodies, but we had all just missed a very subtle effect perpetuated by this one amendment,” said Oklahoma State Senator David Holt.

Lawyers called it the “loser pays” amendment, because it requires the losing party in a civil lawsuit to pay all court costs of the winning party.

“This bill will close the door for a lot of people, who have been done wrong and don’t have another option to make it right,” said attorney Chris Smith. “It’s a bad thing for middle class Oklahomans.”

The bill passed out of the Senate unanimously and the House by a wide margin.

“This slipped past everybody,” Holt said.

A lawyer in the governor’s office noticed the implication of the amendment, but Gov. Fallin signed the bill anyway.

 

Michael McNutt, the communications director for her office, sent NewsChannel 4 this statement:

“Governor Fallin realizes the trauma that survivors of child abuse go through and signed House Bill 1470, which gives them more time to bring a civil lawsuit against the perpetrator. It often takes many years for victims of such abuse to talk about what happened to them. The governor felt such an important provision should be allowed to proceed to provide added protection for countless victims of child abuse. The governor’s office notified authors of the legislation about the broadness of the language in the amendment and suggested they may consider correcting it in a trailer bill. Legislators who want to correct language in the amendment have several avenues they may pursue before the measure takes effect Nov. 1.”

Now, it seems that lawmakers are doing just that.

House Bill 1570 would do away with the ‘loser pays’ amendment in HB 1470.

The bill has already been approved by the House and the Senate, and lawmakers say they plan to have the issue fixed before the end of the session.