Category Archives: Arkansas

October 2017 Newsletter

Oklahoma Supreme Court ruling could lead to medical lawsuit abuse Patients and physicians in Oklahoma could face a deteriorating liability climate in the coming years, as the state Supreme Court recently ruled against an effective liability reform. This setback to accessible and affordable care is the third time the Supreme Court has ruled against a certificate of merit requirement, following several revisions to past legislation which had also been invalidated by the Court. The latest version of the reforms included expanding the scope of expert witness affidavits to include all civil negligence actions which required testimony by an expert, following previous rulings that the law put a higher burden on victims of professional negligence than victims of general negligence. “We believe the certificate of merit has been an important legal reform that helped prevent baseless lawsuits, and we will look carefully at our options and next steps to address today’s ruling,” said Wes Glinsmann, executive director of the Oklahoma State Medical Association. Without an umbrella of federal reforms, medical liability at the state level has too often been a game of one step forward, two steps back, as reforms are passed and then continuously challenged by the personal injury lobby….

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Arkansans for Jobs and Justice Launches Campaign for Real Tort Reform in Arkansas

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…

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October 2016 Newsletter

  Medical liability efforts credited with restraining insurance rates Medical liability insurance rates remained stable, albeit high, in 2016, with medical liability initiatives credited for preventing further sharp increases in costs for physicians. According to the 2016 Medical Liability Monitor Annual Rate Survey, medical liability insurance premiums were nearly unchanged, with a slight 0.1 percent decrease from 2015. Nearly 75 percent of survey respondents noted that their rates remained the same year over year. Going forward, most respondents – over 80 percent – predicted continued stability in the foreseeable future. Medical Liability Monitor Editor Michael Matray commented that “rates today are similar to what they were 10 to 15 years ago,” when physicians were reeling from sky-high insurance rates. Matray attributed the stabilization of liability insurance rates to state reforms as well as the “general shift in the attitudes of the jury pool” due to the work of the American Medical Association and PIAA, both members of HCLA. While liability insurance rates are stable in the midst of increases elsewhere in the health care industry, some remain at the high peaks reached over a decade ago – which is where they’ll stay without comprehensive federal liability reform. To read the…

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Measures On Medical Suits, Casinos Nixed; Medical Marijuana Upheld

The Arkansas Supreme Court on Thursday struck ballot issues on medical lawsuits and casinos from the Nov. 8 ballot and upheld a ballot issue to legalize medical marijuana. The decisions were announced in four separate opinions, all unanimous. Medical lawsuits In two opinions, the state’s top court sided with two groups that challenged Issue 4, which would amend the state constitution to direct the Legislature to set a cap no lower than $250,000 on non-economic damages, such as damages for pain and suffering, in medical suits and would cap lawyers’ contingency fees in medical-injury suits at one-third of the amount recovered. Fairness for Arkansans, a group created by the Arkansas Bar Association, alleged that the ballot title of Issue 4 is misleading and incomplete because, among other things, it does not define the term “non-economic damages.” The Supreme Court said it agreed on that point and therefore did not need to consider the group’s other points. “Without a definition of this term, the voter would be in the position of guessing as to the effect his or her vote would have unless he or she is an expert in the legal field,” the court said in an opinion written by…

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August 2016 Newsletter

Florida lawsuit challenges timely resolution of claims A challenge has been mounted in Florida that could threaten the ability of patients and physicians to resolve medical liability lawsuits in a timely manner. Being considered by the Florida Supreme Court is a case, ruled valid by a trial court and the Florida First District Court of Appeals, that seeks to scale back the requirement that a plaintiff authorize the release of relevant health information as a condition of bringing forward a lawsuit. When passed in 2013, the amendment to the Florida Medical Liability Act was supported by defendants and claimants as a way to eliminate frivolous lawsuits and move forward more quickly towards a resolution for those with merit. It allows for a more informal process of gathering information ahead of a trial, due to the fact that a formal deposition can lead to physicians spending more time in the courtroom – and more time away from patients in the exam room. Writing an amicus brief in support of the law as it stands is the Litigation Center of the AMA and State Medical Societies. “If the right to this informal discovery is removed,” the brief said, “the result will be…

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Government Policies May Drive Doctor Shortages in Unhealthiest States

State medical boards, government-protected monopolies, and jackpot juries could be keeping doctors out of Arkansas and Mississippi. Two of the country’s unhealthiest populations live in states experiencing extreme doctor shortages, according to reports by two organizations ranking patient health and patient care among the states. The United States will have a shortage of 94,700 physicians by 2025, an analysis conducted by the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) found in May 2016. The dearth of health care providers is most prominent in rural states with widely dispersed populations, such as in many parts of the Southeast, according to the 2015 State Physician Workforce Databook, an AAMC study. Mississippi has the nation’s lowest ratio of doctors to population, at 184.7 per 100,000 people, the study found. Arkansas is fifth from the bottom, at 198.1 per 100,000 people. Mississippi and Arkansas are the 49th and 48th healthiest states, respectively, among a cluster of Southeastern states ranked among the least healthy by the United Health Foundation’s 2015 America’s Health Rankings Annual Report. Others are Louisiana (50), Alabama (46), Kentucky (44), Tennessee (43), and South Carolina (42). State Board May Squash Growth Jameson Taylor, vice president for policy at the Mississippi Center for Public…

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June 2016 Newsletter

Republican Health Care Task Force Offers Medical Liability Solutions for Patients, Physicians New health care reforms, including medical liability proposals, were introduced last week by the Republican Health Care Task Force and formally kicked off initiatives that will guide the legislative activities in a new Congress, with a new administration. Led by House Speaker Paul Ryan, the health care reform framework and proposal offered by Republicans aims to empower patients, make the health system more accessible and affordable, and spur medical innovation. “We know that comprehensive medical liability reform that includes caps on non-economic damages will improve patients’ access to quality care while reducing the overall cost of health care in America,” the report states. “Our plan will include liability reform that includes caps on non-economic damage awards, ensuring plaintiffs can recover full economic damages and that patients will not have their damages taken away by excessive lawyer contingency fees.” These reforms have proven effective in states like California and Texas, where patients have greater access to critical care, and health care costs and liability premiums remain affordable. “The HCLA will work with Members of Congress on both sides of the aisle, as well as the new administration, to bring…

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Medical Malpractice Proposal Seeks Out Public Vote

Advocates of capping noneconomic damage awards in lawsuits against health care providers have taken a new tack. They want to amend the Arkansas Constitution instead of making change through the Arkansas Legislature. “Every time we wanted to do something legislatively, it wouldn’t go anywhere,” said Michael Morton of Fort Smith, an outspoken backer of the proposed amendment who operates 30 Arkansas nursing homes. “I’m tired of negotiating without getting anything accomplished. If people don’t like it, fine. If people like it, fine.” Morton and other proponents want to put an “Amendment to Limit Attorney Contingency Fees and Non-Economic Damages in Medical Lawsuits” to a vote of the people. Canvassers are busy gathering signatures to put their proposal on the Nov. 8 ballot. In addition to capping monetary awards for pain and suffering and other noneconomic damages at $250,000, the measure would limit contingency fees to 33.3 percent for lawyers suing doctors, clinics, hospitals and nursing homes. The issue is beginning to draw familiar battle lines seen whenever the banner of “tort reform” has been raised to alter the legal landscape. “I haven’t seen the pros,” said Matt Haas, CEO of the Arkansas Trial Lawyers Association. “But then I haven’t seen…

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AG approves ballot bid on lawsuits

Supporters of a proposed constitutional amendment to restrict the size of jury verdicts against medical care providers cleared a hurdle Wednesday in their effort to get the proposal on the November ballot. On Wednesday, Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge approved the name and title of a proposed amendment that would limit trial attorneys to one-third of any damages won in suits against care providers. It also would require the General Assembly to enact legislation that would set a minimum limit of $250,000 in “non-economic” damages, such as pain and suffering, that could be awarded in a suit. Originally named the “Lawsuit Reform Amendment of 2016,” Rutledge wrote in her opinion that the name was too “partisan” and replaced it with “An Amendment to Limit Attorney Contingency Fees and Non-Economic Damages in Medical Lawsuits.” To get a proposed constitutional amendment on the November ballot, supporters will have to get nearly 82,000 signatures on petitions across the state. On Wednesday, one of the backers of the measure, Chase Dugger, sent out an announcement saying that the measure, if approved by voters, would put the state in league with other states with similar restrictions and would lower health care costs in Arkansas. “[Passage]…

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