LITTLE ROCK, Ark. — The Family Council Action Committee said Tuesday it opposes an effort to limit damages awarded in medical lawsuits in Arkansas, signaling a potential split among conservatives on the ballot measure.

The committee, a socially conservative group that has opposed gay marriage and pushed for abortion restrictions in the state, announced its opposition to the effort to allow the Legislature to cap non-economic damages awarded for medical injury against health care providers, with a minimum $250,000 cap. The proposed constitutional amendment, if approved by voters, would also put a limit on the contingency fees attorneys could receive in medical injury cases.

Jerry Cox, the group’s executive director, said he’s backed other types of so-called tort reform but believed the measure would go too far and would undermine the right to a trial by jury.

“I really see it as a pro-life issue,” Cox said in a statement released by the group. “This amendment leaves too many opportunities for nursing homes to neglect residents and get away with it.”

Health Care Access for Arkansans, the group campaigning for the measure, declined to comment on the Family Council’s statement. The group has argued the amendment is needed to control the costs of health care in the state.

Cox said his group would send out information to between 5,000 and 10,000 activists and roughly 1,000 churches it’s worked with on other issues. He said the group’s efforts against the amendment likely wouldn’t be as intense as its fight against competing ballot measures to legalize medical marijuana. The Family Council is part of a coalition suing to block votes for both legalization proposals.

The lawsuit limits proposal also is fending off two separate lawsuits before the state Supreme Court to block any votes for it in the November election. The lawsuits claim the proposal’s language is misleading to voters and that thousands of signatures that were submitted for it should be tossed out.

Republican Gov. Asa Hutchinson has generally supported tort reform but said last month he was undecided on the medical lawsuits measure.

Senate Majority Leader Jim Hendren, a Republican who supports the proposal, said he was surprised and disappointed by the Family Council’s opposition.

“I certainly don’t see this as a pro-life issue,” said Hendren, who is the governor’s nephew. “I see it as an economic issue.”


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