my_trusty_gavelThe following press release is from Family Council Action Committee.

On Tuesday Family Council Action Committee announced its opposition to a state constitutional amendment authorizing the Arkansas Legislature to cap noneconomic damages in medical injury lawsuits against healthcare facilities.

Family Council Action Committee Executive Director Jerry Cox released a statement, saying, “I support other types of tort reform, but not Issue 4. This amendment simply goes too far, because it lets the Arkansas Legislature severely cap the amount of money juries can award to victims of negligence.”

Cox said the amendment puts people who are already vulnerable at increased risk. “I’ve spoken out on this issue since the Arkansas Legislature tried to pass similar legislation in 2003. I really see it as a pro-life issue. This amendment leaves too many opportunities for nursing homes to neglect residents and get away with it. If a grandmother with dementia dies in a corporate nursing home because the facility is under-staffed and neglects her care, our current system punishes the facility financially. I really think the possibility of being sued and being forced to pay expensive damages motivates some facilities to provide good care. If you cap damages through this amendment, you make it that much harder to hold corporate nursing homes accountable for neglect.”

Cox said the amendment indirectly undermines the right to a trial by jury. “We trust juries to decide if a person is guilty or not guilty; if they ought to go to prison; and even whether or not someone ought to get the death penalty. If we trust juries to decide those things, can’t we trust juries to decide how much money a nursing home ought to pay when its negligence causes someone’s death? Right now, juries issue verdicts in those cases on a case-by-case basis. This amendment essentially lets the Arkansas Legislature strip our juries of that ability.”

Cox said if the amendment passes, lawmakers will be forced to put a dollar value on human life. “No one wants to put a dollar value on a person’s life, but I’m afraid that’s exactly what the amendment will force the Arkansas Legislature to do. Lawmakers are going to be under tremendous pressure to make it so that the family of a grandmother who dies due to negligence in the nursing home cannot sue for more than $250,000. If lawmakers do that, in a roundabout way they’re saying the facts of the case don’t matter; $250,000 is all that grandmother was worth. If that’s not putting a dollar value on human life, I’m not sure what is.”

Family Council Action Committee is a conservative 501(c)(4) organization based in Little Rock, Arkansas.