The Intersection of cases and statutes – Oklahoma Supreme Court voids the Comprehensive Lawsuit Reform Act of 2009

June 19, 2013

Oklahoma lawOn June 4, 2013, the Oklahoma Supreme Court invalidated the Comprehensive Lawsuit Reform Act of 2009, Douglas v. Cox Retirement Properties, Inc. The court held that the enactment violated the single-subject requirement of the Oklahoma Constitution and voided the bill in its entirety. How do you undo legislation? The better question for Thomson Reuters Attorney Editors is, how do we best provide information to our customers about this decision and its aftermath? Fortunately, practitioners have many tools on Westlaw to navigate through the recent changes to the law.

H.B. 1603 became Oklahoma Law 2009, chapter 228, effective November 1, 2009. To see all the sections directly impacted by this legislation on WestlawNext, do a search for “Laws 2009, c. 228” while in Oklahoma Statutes & Court Rules. This legislation affects 88 sections of the Oklahoma statutes. All of the sections affected carry a red KeyCite flag on WestlawNext, indicating the negative treatment by the court. Additionally, each section affected will get a special “validity” note indicating the negative treatment by the Douglas decision.

The Douglas decision may call into question past and present cases. Oklahoma practitioners will want to pay close attention to published cases that turn on the now invalidated law of H.B. 1603. Current tort litigation practitioners will need to figure out what the current law is.

There are two thorny statutory issues raised by the Douglas decision that Oklahoma practitioners will want to pay attention to – repeals and subsequent amendments. Questions may arise as to the exact text of these sections and the effective date(s) of the changes. In each case, KeyCite alerts researchers on WestlawNext to the Douglas decision, as well as the validity notes. For the repealed sections, we will provide a note which sets forth the text of the section as it appeared before the repeal. This text can also be found in the 2008 Oklahoma historical database on Westlaw.  For the hand full of sections amended by H.B. 1603 and subsequently amended by later laws, practitioners will want to examine the amendment notes and the credits, utilizing the links on Westlaw, to determine the current text for these sections.

The next legislative session in Oklahoma will likely result in changes which will clean-up some of the loose ends created by Douglas. The courts may need to step in to tie up other loose ends that cannot be cured by legislation. KeyCite will alert practitioners to any developments in either forum.