Hutchinson staying mum on medical lawsuit measure; Family Council opposes

by Steve Brawner ([email protected]) 71 views 

Gov. Asa Hutchinson said Wednesday he would not take a public role on a proposed medical lawsuit amendment on the November ballot that would limit trial lawyer contingency fees to 33 1/3 percent after expenses of the amount recovered and allow the Legislature to set a cap of at least $250,000 for non-economic damages.

One of the state’s leading conservative groups, the Family Council, has announced it opposes the amendment.

After a speech at Little Rock Hall High School, Hutchinson told reporters, “At this point, I probably will just stay neutral on it. I’ve got my personal opinions on it, but I don’t anticipate any time soon making an announcement” on the issue.

“I’ll probably tell people how I want to vote on it, but not anytime soon that I’m going to do that because I just want the debate to continue on that amendment without my engagement in it,” he said.

He said he would be focusing his public efforts on other ballot initiatives. Hutchinson has expressed firm opposition to two proposals that would legalize marijuana for medical use.

Meanwhile, the Family Council Action Committee announced Tuesday that it opposes the amendment. In a press release, Executive Director Jerry Cox said he supports tort reform but not this proposal because it goes too far in letting the Legislature cap jury awards for negligence.

“I’ve spoken out on this issue since the Arkansas Legislature tried to pass similar legislation in 2003,” Cox said in the release. “I really see it as a pro-life issue. This amendment leaves too many opportunities for nursing homes to neglect residents and get away with it. If a grandmother with dementia dies in a corporate nursing home because the facility is under-staffed and neglects her care, our current system punishes the facility financially. I really think the possibility of being sued and being forced to pay expensive damages motivates some facilities to provide good care. If you cap damages through this amendment, you make it that much harder to hold corporate nursing homes accountable for neglect.”

He said that the amendment would undermine the ability of juries to set awards and puts a dollar value on human life.