Arkansas voters may get the opportunity to consider a tort reform measure during the next general election. A resolution was filed Tuesday in the Arkansas General Assembly, Senate Joint Resolution 8 (SJR8), would amend the state Constitution’s wording on the Workmen’s Compensation Laws, allowing for the legislature to enact laws limiting the amount a claimant may receive in certain lawsuits.
The bill to amend the Arkansas Constitution was filed by Sen. Bart Hester (R-Cave Springs). According to the resolution, the General Assembly would be allowed to enact laws limiting the amount in which a claimant can receive in punitive and noneconomic damages in actions for injuries, even those resulting in death.
The amendment reads in full:
(b)(1) The General Assembly may enact laws limiting the amount of punitive damages and noneconomic damages that may be awarded for each claimant in actions for injuries resulting in death or for injuries to persons or property, including without limitation medical injuries.
(2) As used in this section, “noneconomic damages” means damages that cannot be measured in money, including without limitation any loss or damage, however characterized, for one (1) or more of the following:
(A) Pain, suffering, and mental anguish;
(B) Scars, disfigurement, and visible results of an injury
(C) Loss of consortium; and
(D) Loss of life.
Voters were unable to vote for a tort reform measure during the 2018 election, after the Arkansas Supreme Court struck Issue 1 from the ballot. Critics said the measure was too broad and would handicap the state’s justice system. Supporters of such a measure say tort reform is necessary to recruit businesses and doctors to the state.
If the resolution is passed by a supermajority of House and Senate, the measure would appear on the 2020 ballot as “An Amendment to the Arkansas Constitution Providing that the General Assembly May Enact Laws Limiting the Amount of Punitive Damages and Noneconomic Damages that May Be Awarded in Actions for Injuries Resulting in Death or for Injuries to Persons or Property.”