A coalition representing a diverse group of Arkansans has joined together to support commonsense reforms that will help make Arkansas more competitive with surrounding states and protect everyday Arkansans. Paperwork was filed today for Arkansans for Jobs and Justice to advocate for the passage of SJR8. The committee will be anchored by the Arkansas State Chamber of Commerce with leadership from the Arkansas Medical Society, The Poultry Federation, Arkansas Health Care Association and Arkansas Trucking Association.
“It’s time to once again level the playing field in Arkansas with commonsense reforms that strike a balance between protecting the rights of everyday Arkansans while creating an environment of economic growth and job creation in Arkansas,” said Randy Zook, President of the Arkansas State Chamber of Commerce. “Unfortunately, the progress made on tort reform in 2003 has been stripped away, piece by piece, over the last 14 years by the Arkansas Supreme Court, making a constitutional amendment necessary. The passage of SJR8 by the voters of Arkansas will make Arkansas more competitive with surrounding states while still protecting the right to a jury trial and damages.”
The legislative effort for the tort reform measure passed in 2003 was led by the Arkansas Medical Society. “We have learned from experience that without a constitutional amendment, Arkansas will not have real tort reform,” said David Wroten, Executive Vice President of the Arkansas Medical Society. “Arkansas doctors know how important this commonsense amendment is to their patients and their families. The constant concern about frivolous lawsuits in Arkansas continues to be a significant factor in the decision of top physicians and specialists to continue to practice in or relocate to our state.”
SJR8, sponsored by Senator Missy Irvin and Representative Bob Ballinger, along with 66 co-sponsors, is the proposed constitutional amendment that will appear on the November 2018 ballot for Arkansas voters. The popular name of the proposed amendment will be “An Amendment Concerning Civil Lawsuits and the Powers of the General Assembly and Supreme Court to Adopt Court Rules,” and the ballot title will be:
A proposed amendment to the Arkansas Constitution providing that a contingency fee for an attorney in a civil lawsuit shall not exceed thirty-three and one-third percent (33 1/3 %) of the net recovery; defining “contingency fee” as an attorney’s fee that is paid only if the claimant recovers money; providing that the General Assembly may amend the foregoing percentage by a two-thirds (2/3) vote of each house; limiting punitive damages awards for each claimant in lawsuits for personal injury, property damage, or wrongful death to the greater of (i) five hundred thousand dollars ($500,000), or (ii) three (3) times the amount of compensatory damages awarded; defining “punitive damages” as damages assessed to punish and deter wrongful conduct; providing that the General Assembly may not decrease the foregoing limitations on punitive damages but may increase the limitations by a two-thirds (2/3) vote of each house; providing that the limitations on punitive damages do not apply if the factfinder determines by clear and convincing evidence that the defendant intentionally pursued a course of conduct for the purpose of causing injury or damage to the claimant and that such intentional conduct harmed the claimant; limiting awards of non-economic damages in lawsuits for personal injury, property damage, or wrongful death to (i) five hundred thousand dollars ($500,000) for each claimant, or (ii) five hundred thousand dollars ($500,000) for all beneficiaries of an individual deceased person in the aggregate in a lawsuit for wrongful death; defining “non-economic damages” as damages that cannot be measured in money, including pain and suffering, mental and emotional distress, loss of life or companionship, or visible result of injury; providing that the General Assembly may not decrease the foregoing limitations on non-economic damages but may increase the limitations by a two-thirds (2/3) vote of each house; providing that the General Assembly shall adopt a procedure to adjust the dollar limitations on punitive damages and non-economic damages in future years to account for inflation or deflation; providing that the Supreme Court’s power to prescribe rules of pleading, practice, and procedure for courts is subject to the provisions of this amendment; providing that the General Assembly, by a three-fifths vote of each house, may amend or repeal a rule prescribed by the Supreme Court and may adopt other rules of pleading, practice, or procedure on its own initiative; providing that rules of pleading, practice, and procedure in effect on January 1, 2019, shall continue in effect until amended, superseded, or repealed under the provisions of this amendment; providing that a rule of pleading, practice, or procedure enacted by the General 13 Assembly shall supersede a conflicting rule of pleading, practice, or procedure prescribed by the Supreme Court; providing that certain other rules promulgated by the Supreme Court may be annulled or amended by a three-fifths (3/5) vote of each house of the General Assembly instead of a two-thirds (2/3) vote as presently stated in the Arkansas Constitution; and providing that this amendment becomes effective on January 1, 2019.