Human life is priceless.
This is a basic, universal truth. You can describe the value of a home or vehicle in terms of money, but you cannot put a price on the value of a human being.
Unfortunately, Issue 1 on the 2018 Arkansas voting ballot seeks to do just that. Its popular name is “An Amendment Concerning Civil Lawsuits and the Powers of the General Assembly and Supreme Court to Adopt Court Rules,” but the name is misleading.
Here are the changes this proposed amendment would make to the Arkansas Constitution:
- Cap punitive damages at $500,000 or three times the compensatory damages awarded.
- Cap non-economic damages at $500,000.
- Cap contingency fees (fees charged by attorneys if they win a case) at 33.3% of the awarded amount.
- Allow the legislature to pass laws of pleading, procedure, and practice.
There it is: a $500,000 price tag on human life.
In order to understand why Issue 1 is so dangerous to Arkansans, it’s important to understand a few terms used.
- Punitive damages are damages awarded to the victim as a sort of “punishment” for the person or company who caused their injury. Punitive damages are given in cases where someone was intentionally reckless or negligent or was motivated by malice.
- Compensatory damages are awarded to compensate the victim for losses like medical expenses and lost wages, which are objective dollar amounts.
- Non-economic damages refer to the type of loss that is less tangible but still significant: pain, suffering, and emotional and mental trauma.
Who is impacted by Issue 1?
Under Issue 1, the lives of some people would have more value than others. A person who has a paying job, for example, could receive compensatory damages for their lost wages in addition to the $500,000 cap proposed here. But there are many people in our state who do not have paying jobs: children, elderly people, and stay-at-home parents, to name a few. They would not be eligible to receive compensatory damages for lost wages. Their settlements would be considerably less.
These groups represent some of our most vulnerable citizens. They are exactly who would suffer under Issue 1, which says that their lives are worth no more than $500,000. But even if you are employed, Issue 1 would set an arbitrary cap on your settlement. We believe this is unacceptable.
What about punitive damages?
As mentioned above, punitive damages are meant to be a punishment that deters other people or businesses from repeating the same appalling behavior.
For example, nursing home negligence is a serious problem in our country. Imagine that your grandmother was neglected or abused while in the care of a local nursing home. This mistreatment could result in serious health problems or even death. But even then, the nursing home would only be required to pay $500,000 in punitive damages. For some companies, this is a nearly insignificant sum.
Why shouldn’t punitive damages have a cap?
No amount of money can undo the damage that is done when a person intentionally abuses or maliciously injures another person. No amount of money can restore the life of your loved one.
But if an individual or company is abusive or malicious, they should be held accountable. Why should lawmakers, many of whom are influenced by the healthcare and trucking industries, determine the amount these businesses should pay?
To be clear, we believe that the vast majority of doctors and healthcare providers in Arkansas are people of integrity. But for the small percentage who would seek to harm the most vulnerable among us, we must send a message that abuse and negligence will not be tolerated. Punitive damages can be a powerful tool to do so, but Issue 1 would take away that power.
Each person is unique; their settlement should be, too.
Each personal injury case is different. Every lawsuit represents a victim whose life has been altered by a negligent person or defective product. The Seventh Amendment declares that every American has the right to a fair trial, with a jury who can be trusted to determine the settlement they should be awarded. It would be immoral and unethical to take away that judicial power and set the same maximum limits on every future injury in Arkansas. That’s what Issue 1 seeks to do.
You can help stop this government overreach and declare that human life is priceless! Vote NO on Issue 1. Although a Pulaski County judge ruled in September that Issue 1 be removed from the ballot, his ruling has been appealed to the Arkansas Supreme Court. The final ruling has not been announced.
Taylor King Law continues to advocate for the rights of Arkansas injury victims, as we’ve done for more than 20 years. We believe that all life has value and deserves dignity. We believe that negligent businesses and individuals should be held accountable for their actions. Issue 1 would infringe on the rights of Arkansas citizens and threaten separation of powers in government, which is why we will VOTE NO. To learn more about Taylor King Law, visit our website at taylorkinglaw.com or call today at 1-800-CAR WRECK (227-9732).