Yesterday Arkansas Right to Life Executive Director Rose Mimms published an op-ed at TownHall.com regarding Issue 1 — a proposed constitutional amendment restricting noneconomic damages juries can award in lawsuits — writing,
Issue One would put an arbitrary cap of $500,000 on non-economic and caps punitive damages. In real life this means that if a 40 year old successful business man is killed negligently then his life could be worth millions because you could calculate his current earnings and multiply them out for the future. If a stay at home mom, a child or infant, a retired veteran, an individual with Down Syndrome or other genetic disorder who isn’t employed or a nursing home resident who dies as a result of abuse or someone else’s error or negligence then those lives are all capped at a value never to exceed $500,000. The jury simply can’t award a family more, even if it wanted to do so. Think of your loved ones, would you ever put a price tag on their lives?
Ultimately, Issue One says that some lives are more valuable than others. It says that your life’s value is determined by your what you earn at the time of a tragedy. It says that Arkansans on juries can’t hear the facts and award a family $1 million dollars for the abuse of their child who was left brain damaged or the neglect of their elderly mother in a nursing home. Issue One is one more step in devaluing life in a culture where we simply can’t afford any more slips down that slope.
Family Council Action Committee announced a few weeks ago that it would campaign against Issue 1, because the amendment puts a dollar value on human life.
Family Council has never opposed responsible lawsuit reforms. As far back as 2003, we did not oppose general malpractice reform measures passed by the legislature. That same year, however, we did oppose a proposal that could have given an unfair advantage to nursing homes over good care for residents.
Some nursing home owners simply don’t want to spend the money necessary to provide quality care. They cut staff, reduce services, compromise care, and let people suffer. Most families have a story about a loved one who was neglected or mistreated in a nursing home. The fear of a lawsuit may be all that keeps some nursing homes in line. Issue 1 removes that threat. If that goes away, our elderly nursing home residents will suffer even more.
Photo Credit: By MediaPhoto.Org [CC BY 3.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0)], from Wikimedia Commons