On October 13, 2016, the Arkansas Supreme Court ruled in the case of Ross v. Martin that Issue 4, also known by its (not very) popular title "An Amendment to Limit Attorney Contingency Fees and Non-Economic Damages in Medical Lawsuits," was thrown off the November ballot. The Court ruled unanimously, 7-0, that the ballot title was insufficient, in that it provides absolutely no guidance or definition as to what constitutes "non-economic damages."
This decision was in accord with the companion case of Wilson v. Martin, which was sponsored by the Arkansas Bar Association, and challenged the ballot title on the same grounds the Committee to Protect AR Families utilized in Ross. Remarkably, in the accompanying petition challenge trial, one of Issue 4's sponsors, Chase Dugger, despite being asked multiple times, could not cogently or intelligently define what non-economic damage were. He further testified under oath in the petition challenge trial that "Joe Blow Arkansan doesn't understand what non-economic damages are." The Supreme Court agreed, and invalidated Issue 4, directing the Secretary of State to not count any votes cast for or against the measure.
It seemed clear during the signature challenge trial that Health Care Access for Arkansans, the group sponsoring Issue 4, knew truth and honesty would be fatal to their proposed constitutional amendment. They instructed their canvassers to mislead potential petition signers by not mentioning that the amendment would cap such things as pain and suffering, mental anguish, and the value of their loved ones' lives. This is because they certainly knew Arkansans would not give up their rights when armed with knowledge. So they chose to be deceptive, and told signers that it only applied to capping lawyer's fees who file frivolous lawsuits. In fact, their own training materials and talking points clearly showed their deceptive procedures.
In the immediate aftermath of this decision from the Arkansas Supreme Court, some lawmakers have publicly stated that they will go into the 2017 legislative session and attempt to do what Health Care for Arkansans, headed up by the aforementioned Chase Dugger and Dan Greenberg spent nearly a million dollars and failed in doing. Senator Bart Hester has proclaimed that tort reform measures like this will be a high priority to refer to the people for a vote in 2018. The legislature has the discretion to refer three such proposed amendments to our state constitution each session. People like Senator Hester will always side with corporate nursing homes, big insurance, and business insiders instead of you and your loved ones.
So what does this mean? It means that your 7th Amendment rights are intact, but that are UNDER ATTACK. Arm yourself with knowledge about what these provisions will do and how they will harm you and your family. Arm yourself with information and stay tuned to my blog for information. And most of all, be prepared to contact your legislator to make sure he or she knows that you do not support placing an arbitrary, one size fits all cap on the value of the most precious thing we hold dear: Human life.