LITTLE ROCK, Ark. — A group opposed to a ballot proposal that would place limits on damages in medical lawsuits asked Arkansas’ highest court Monday to block voting on the proposed constitutional amendment in November.
Fairness for Arkansans, a group that was formed by the Arkansas Bar Association to oppose the measure, asked the state Supreme Court to remove the proposed amendment from the ballot or bar the secretary of state’s office from counting any votes for the measure.
The proposal, if approved by voters, would allow the Legislature to cap non-economic damages awarded for medical injury against health care providers, with a minimum cap of $250,000. The proposal would also put a limit on the contingency fees attorneys could receive in medical injury cases.
The lawsuit claims the proposal is misleading and omits key information for voters.
“This amendment would take away fundamental rights of Arkansans that have been protected in our state and national constitutions,” Denise Hoggard, the bar association’s president, said at a news conference.
Supporters of the proposed amendment, including nursing home operators, said the proposal is needed to control health care costs and dismissed the lawsuit as an attempt by lawyers to protect their business.
“These attorneys profit from lawsuits for a living, so it’s no surprise to see them try the lawsuit tactic here, too,” said Chase Dugger, executive director of Health Care Access for Arkansans, the group behind the measure. “They want to prevent Arkansas voters from having a voice in how these lawsuits impact all of our health care costs.”
The lawsuit argues that the proposal doesn’t inform voters that a jury’s discretion in awarding non-economic damages will be superseded by the new cap imposed by the Legislature, and that the ballot title fails to inform voters how it defines key terms such as “medical injury” and “health care business.” It also says the proposal fails to define the term “non-economic damages” and whether it will include punitive damages in lawsuits.
The lawsuit is the second challenge filed recently against a proposed ballot measure. Opponents of a proposal to legalize medical marijuana asked the high court to block that proposal last week, saying its language was misleading to voters.
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