The principle of joint and several liability has long existed in American jurisprudence to enable victims to collect their entire judgment from at least one defendant in cases where multiple defendants have been found to be at fault. The purpose of the law was to ensure that victims collect their full judgment from at least one defendant without having to chase down several defendants.
That principle has irked tort reformers for years, and Republican legislators in Oklahoma have finally found their opportunity to overturn that doctrine. The House Judiciary Committee, dominated by Republicans, approved a measure that now goes to the House that would require that in cases where multiple liability is found, that a defendant only pay their assessed percentage of the judgment.
No Democrat on the committee voted in favor of the proposal. Personal injury plaintiffs may now find that they can only collect a portion of their judgment as many defendants may be insolvent, unavailable, or just refuse to pay.
Democrats also pointed out that injured plaintiffs would have to seek state assistance in rehabilitation, probably adding more costs to an already strained state budget.
The proposal was in addition to another measure that would require juries to be told in professional malpractice cases that any jury award is not taxable by the state or federal government. The desired effect is to convey to juries that they need not award large sums to plaintiffs believing that taxes would reduce the amount of any verdict.