State Chamber Testing Attitudes On Tort Reform

by Roby Brock ( 77 views 

Members of the Arkansas State Chamber of Commerce are being asked to offer feedback on a potential tort reform ballot issue in 2014 and the group’s CEO says a decision has not been made on whether or not to proceed.

In the recently concluded legislative session, in-fighting among lawmakers and interest groups resulted in no tort reform measure being referred to voters in the 2014 general election.

The only path for supporters of a proposal would be to collect signatures to qualify a measure for the ballot next year.

In late 2011, the Arkansas Supreme Court struck down major provisions in a tort reform law that was passed nearly a decade ago.  The Supreme Court ruling had far-reaching ramifications as it addressed a state statute put on the books in 2003, the Civil Justice Reform Act, that capped punitive damages in plaintiffs’ lawsuits at three times the amount of compensatory damages, with a maximum award of $1 million.

On Tuesday (May 21), state chamber members were sent an email survey asking questions ranging from familiarity with the issue of “lawsuit reform,” caps on jury awards, and abuses of the legal system.

Members were also asked in the survey:

Would you be willing to participate in an Arkansas State Chamber-led effort to pass an amendment to the state’s constitution, in order to implement common-sense lawsuit reform in Arkansas?

Arkansas State Chamber of Commerce CEO Randy Zook said that his group, which represents a variety of business interests across the state, is still trying to determine if a tort reform ballot measure is worth pursuing.

“We’re in a formative, decision-making stage. We’re not exactly sure about the best way to go about this,” Zook said in a recent Talk Business Arkansas TV interview.

He cited as problematic three legislative-referred proposals that have already qualified for the ballot as well as high-profile races for the U.S. Senate and Arkansas Governor next year.

“That makes for a complex environment. You get lost amongst the noise,” Zook said.  A week ago, Zook said he felt fairly confident that a tort reform campaign would happen.

You can view Zook’s full interview below, including his extensive comments on a potential pipeline closure that could greatly impact aviation and trucking industry interests in parts of Arkansas.