Family Council Action Committee to Oppose Proposed Amendment to Cap Value of Life

The following is a press release from Family Council Action Committee. You can see video of Family Council Action Committee’s press conference here.

Monday, March 5, 2018

At a press conference on Monday, Family Council Action Committee formally announced its opposition to Issue One, a proposed constitutional amendment restricting the amount of money awarded in lawsuits.

Executive Director Jerry Cox released a statement saying, “We oppose Issue One because it puts a price tag on human life. Most people would agree that we should never put a value on human life unless the word ‘priceless’ is involved. Issue One not only puts a dollar value on human life, but a pretty low value at that—just $500,000.”

Cox explained how Issue One places a dollar value on human life. “Issue One is a being billed as a tort reform measure. Sadly, like too many things in politics today, what we’re told and what we will get are two very different things. Issue One limits noneconomic damages in lawsuits at $500,000 for injuries such as pain and suffering or mental anguish. That might be okay when you’re talking about people suing a restaurant because they spilled hot coffee on themselves, but it’s another thing when you’re talking about a grandmother who dies in a nursing home because the facility didn’t take care of her, or if a drunk driver paralyzes your child for life. If your grandmother dies because her nursing home was negligent, you can’t sue the facility for economic damages like lost wages because nursing home residents aren’t employed, which means under the law they have no “economic value” such as lost wages. Noneconomic damages are all they have. Issue One basically guarantees the nursing home won’t have to pay more than $500,000 if it is responsible for your grandma’s death.”

Cox said Issue One treats young children, elderly adults, and others who do not earn an income as if their lives are not as valuable as everyone else’s. “This amendment sets the going rate for people killed or injured due to the negligence of others. Retired husband or wife: $500,000. Homemaker with four young children, but no outside income: $500,000. Mentally-disabled child: $500,000. Family man on disability: $500,000. But wealthy wage earners are treated better. They could collect millions of dollars in economic damages because of projected future earnings and lost wages. “Currently, any resident of a long-term health care facility who is abused or neglected can take the case to court. This goes for all other injury lawsuits, as well. There, a jury of everyday Arkansans hears the facts of the case and then awards damages based on what they believe to be fair and just. This jury system is a guaranteed constitutional right enjoyed by every person. After all, everyone who needs it should have their day in court and expect justice. Issue One is an insult to justice. Issue One ties the hands of judges and juries by letting the State set an arbitrary, one-size-fits-all value of no more than $500,000 in noneconomic damages,” Cox said.

Cox said Issue One ultimately does not stop frivolous lawsuits. “The backers of this amendment could have written a proposal that focused on preventing lawyers from enriching themselves on frivolous lawsuits. They could have written an amendment that addressed some of the medical malpractice problems that good physicians face. Instead they wrote an amendment that puts a price tag on human life and leaves the door wide open for the nursing home industry to neglect our loved ones. Nursing home neglect already is too common, even with the threat of huge lawsuits. If Issue One passes, that problem is simply going to get worse.”

Family Council Action Committee Political Director Ken Yang rolled out a seven-point plan for defeating Issue One. The plan includes rallying faith leaders, mobilizing a statewide grassroots network, a direct mail and social media effort, conducting speaking engagements, earned media, voter’s guides, and a get-out-the-vote campaign.

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


Reports Show AR Nursing Homes High in Medication Errors

Yesterday the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette highlighted reports showing Arkansas’ nursing homes rank higher in medication errors than those in surrounding states.

Data from the federal government indicates significant medication errors are discovered on average in one of every five of the state’s nursing homes — with other errors possibly going undiscovered.

The article focused on Ms. Linda Cooper, who died suddenly in a Conway nursing home after a nurse mistakenly gave her another resident’s high-dose narcotics.

The Cooper family subsequently sued the facility and settled out of court. The newspaper writes,

The Cooper family’s lawsuit is the type that would be hampered by the passage of a constitutional amendment on tort reform that’s set to go before Arkansas voters on next year’s November ballot. The measure would cap punitive and noneconomic damages, as well as limit attorney’s contingency fees to one-third of the net amount awarded their client.

Tort reform has long been championed by the nursing home industry, and its staunchest opposition has come from plaintiffs’ attorneys.

A similar measure was to appear on the 2016 ballot until the Arkansas Supreme Court ruled that the ballot title contained unclear terms.

In support of that measure, Reliance Health Care in 2016 gave $173,140 to Health Care Access for Arkansans, a ballot question committee formed to advocate for the tort reform amendment’s passage.

The Arkansas Health Care Association, which receives monthly dues from nursing homes in the state, contributed $585,677 to the tort reform effort.

The proposed constitutional amendment the newspaper mentions is SJR 8. The Arkansas Legislature decided to refer SJR 8 to voters last spring.

Under current law, a jury hearing a personal-injury lawsuit reviews evidence, examines the facts, and awards damages to the injured party based on what they determine is appropriate. Some people believe juries award victims too much money, so SJR 8 restricts how much juries can award.

SJR 8 limits attorney’s fees in personal-injury lawsuits and lets the Arkansas Legislature cap noneconomic damages at half a million dollars for an injury or death. Under current law, there are no limits; juries award damages on a case-by-case basis.

SJR 8 also lets lawmakers make rules about evidence that can be used in personal-injury lawsuits.

We have written in the past about the unintended consequences of measures like SJR 8. 

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. SJR 8 removes that threat. If that goes away, our elderly nursing home residents will suffer even more.

You can read more about this story here.

Court Strikes Bad Casino, Tort Proposals From Ballot

my_trusty_gavelThe following press release is from Family Council Action Committee.

Thursday, October 13, 2016

On Thursday the Arkansas Supreme Court disqualified ballot proposals, Issue 4 dealing with limits on damages in medical injury lawsuits and Issue 5, which opens three casinos in Arkansas, from the November ballot.

Family Council Action Committee Executive Director Jerry Cox released a statement, saying, “In my opinion, both of these measures were seriously flawed and needed to be removed from the ballot. While I support general medical malpractice reforms for doctors, Issue 4 could have made it possible for some nursing homes to neglect residents without facing sufficient consequences. Issue 5 would have brought casinos to three counties in Arkansas, and it would have written a specific corporation from Missouri into our state’s constitution. I am glad to see the Arkansas Supreme Court has disqualified these proposals.”

Cox said he also believes the court should have ruled against the two marijuana ballot proposals as well in order to be consistent with this ruling. “The Arkansas Supreme Court disqualified Issues 4 and 5 in part because they failed to define some of their key terms in the proposals. Marijuana Issues 6 and 7 fail to define some of their key terms as well, but the court left those proposals on the ballot. The court was right to disqualify Issues 4 and 5, but by the same standard, the court should have disqualified the two marijuana measures as well.”

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


Photo Credit: By Brian Turner (Flickr: My Trusty Gavel) [CC BY 2.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons