Call Your Local Representative to Vote No on SJR8

We need your help to protect all Arkansans from Tort Reform for Nursing Home & Malpractice Claims being considered RIGHT NOW. Please protect your rights and the rights of your family, friends, and community. Tell your senator to VOTE AGAINST SJR8!

SJR8 is a bill currently in the Arkansas Senate. It is intended to impose sweeping tort reform for cases involving medical malpractice and nursing home malpractice. Senators are saying that a groundswell of voices are calling for the measure. In truth, those voices are not so much a groundswell of grassroots constituents but instead lobbyists for insurance companies, nursing home chains, and hospital corporations.  They seek to impose special rules just for medical defendants. The biggest feature of reform is a $250,000 cap on non-economic damages suffered by a victim of malpractice after they have successfully proved their claim in court.

What are non-economic damages? Pain, emotional injury (like the death of your spouse or child), physical impairment (like being unable to walk), and disfigurement (like losing your leg to amputation).

I practice in other states that have a $250,000 cap on non-economic damages. In Texas, I recently resolved a case involving the death of a 4 year old girl. The ER doctor admitted in her deposition that she was unable to identify even the most basic anatomical structures on an abdominal x-ray. Yet, the case settled for just $137,000. Why? Because the little girl did not have a “lost wage claim” as she was just 4. Her life ended quickly, painfully, and tragically, which means we did not have a large claim for medical expenses incurred due to the negligent act of the doctor. The entire case revolved around the emotional destruction of her grieving parents…a damage claim which is artificially capped in Texas.

In the Pro-Life political campaigns, it is argued that all life is precious. It is true that all life is precious. Anyone with whom I speak agrees that the “value” of a child’s life should not be artificially capped just so that a negligent doctor or hospital can save money. Most people agree that the “value” of an elderly patient in a nursing home should not be minimized in court just so the nursing home can save money when a jury decides they acted negligently.

Why are these damage awards important?  They provide incentives for medical providers to pay attention to their patients, follow standards of care, and not to treat patients and nursing home residents as mere profit centers. We impose fines for traffic speeders to encourage all citizens to drive within the speed limit; without that fine, we would all drive a little faster. It is human nature. Therefore, we attach a penalty to unsafe conduct that keeps us all honest and creates safer communities.

Capping damages when an injured party is successful in court erodes the incentive system for safety. In Arkansas, tort reform for medical malpractice cases will encourage nursing homes to become less attentive; to hire less qualified personnel. Hospital nurses will not get as much annual training. Clinics will drive doctors to see more patients and spend less time on each one. Profit motives will creep farther into the decision making of these corporations and business entities. Medical care will diminish in quality.

For the proponents of tort reform, it is easy to bash lawyers. For me, it is hard to explain to the parents of a dead child that their kid is “worth” no more than $250,000 in court, no matter the facts of the case or how negligent the medical provider.

Use this link to get the contact information for your State Senator and Representative: 

http://www.arkansas.gov/government/my-officials

Call your elected official and simply say, “As your constituent, I ask that you oppose SJR8 and any other tort reform measure. Thank you.”