A group hoping to cap noneconomic damages for health care providers and limit attorneys’ contingency fees has raised more than $313,000, including $250,000 from the Arkansas Health Care Association, which represents nursing homes.
The constitutional amendment being pushed by Health Care Access for Arkansans would direct the Legislature to set the cap at no less than $250,000 for non-economic damages against health care providers. Economic or punitive damages would not be affected. Trial lawyer contingency fees would be limited to 33 1/3%.
On Tuesday, the group reported raising $313,110 during May in its first financial report to the Arkansas Ethics Commission. The Arkansas Health Care Association donated $250,000, while the second largest donor, RHC Operations of Conway, donated $50,000. RHC Operations is Reliance Health Care, a nursing home company with 38 locations in Arkansas. Six other skilled nursing facilities have donated $2,000 to the effort.
Rachel Davis, executive director of the Arkansas Health Care Association, said, “We have long supported this type of reform because it benefits Arkansans, the medical community and our members. It will increase access to health care and return the focus to giving patients the best care possible.”
In May, Health Care Access for Arkansans spent $249,742.42. Of that, $237,063 was spent with 3.0 LLC, a signature gathering operation.
Health Care Access for Arkansans says it has collected 75,000 signatures in its drive for a constitutional amendment. It needs 84,859 valid signatures to qualify for the ballot. Chase Duggar of JCD Consulting said the group hopes to collect 130,000 signatures by its deadline of July 8. He said it did not start gathering signatures until the first full week of May.
The group points to a 2015 survey by the U.S. Chamber Institute for Legal Reform that ranked Arkansas 41st out of 50 states for its lawsuit climate. The Arkansas Supreme Court in 2011 struck down a 2003 law that limited punitive and noneconomic damages in personal injury cases.