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Over the past several months, opponents of common-sense legal reform in Arkansas have been misinforming and misleading voters at a dizzying rate.

Opponents have argued that passage of Issue 1 would eliminate the right to trial by jury and would let the Legislature decide how much compensation someone could receive in an injury case. These false assertions are nothing more than a calculated campaign of fear and hyperbole designed to scare voters into voting against their own interests. The truth is that Issue 1 preserves the right to a jury trial and allows Arkansans to keep more of their award or settlement by limiting what their lawyer can take to no more than 33 percent. Furthermore, Issue 1 makes clear that victims and families can receive unlimited damages for lost wages, medical bills and loss of property.

Today, trial lawyers are incentivized to pursue "jackpot justice" verdicts by exploiting injury victims and their families in the pursuit of million-dollar paydays and taking as much as 50 percent of a settlement or award. Without limits on the amount of an award trial lawyers can receive, our current system results in the actual victims receiving less and less. It also incentivizes lawyers to file more and more cases, harming our economy by impacting business recruitment and retention and limiting access to quality medical care.

The impact that frivolous lawsuits have can be staggering to anyone who operates a business. According to national data by the American Medical Association, it costs approximately $140,000 to successfully defend against a malpractice claim. Even in cases when claims are ultimately dropped, businesses on average incur legal bills totaling $28,000. That's a hefty price tag for any business, but for small businesses in particular it could be the difference between being in the black and being in the red.

In addition to impacting businesses directly, our legal environment also impacts job recruitment, as businesses of all sizes actively consider a state's lawsuit environment when deciding where to invest capital to grow jobs. States like Texas, Ohio, and Mississippi have seen dramatic decreases in litigation following their tort-reform efforts, as well as economic growth in the form of hundreds of thousands of jobs and major economic development projects.

Issue 1 is also critical to ensuring that Arkansas has a robust and high quality health-care system.

Today, medical services are in jeopardy, especially in rural areas, due to frivolous malpractice claims that drive costs up for doctors and drive them out of Arkansas. Arkansas ranks 48th in the nation for infant deaths and 44th for maternal deaths, and expecting mothers often face long drives due to shortages of obstetric care. Tort reform is part of the solution, as it will make Arkansas a more attractive place for doctors to practice, ultimately benefiting patients by increasing both quality and quantity of care. Tort reform has been identified by the American College of Emergency Physicians as an important step "to help combat workforce shortages and improve overall access to emergency care."

Opponents to Issue 1 are running a campaign based on fear, trying to convince voters that the sky will fall on Nov. 6 if Issue 1 passes. In reality, Issue 1 simply enacts reforms in Arkansas that have been passed in numerous other states across the country--19 of which have some form of limit on attorney's fees, and 33 with caps on excessive jury awards.

What the trial-lawyer opponents to Issue 1 are really concerned about is the impact that this amendment will have on their pocketbooks. On Nov. 6 we have a chance to put a stop to greedy jackpot justice and put Arkansas businesses and Arkansas people first.

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Randy Zook is the president and CEO of the Arkansas State Chamber of Commerce/Associated Industries of Arkansas.

Editorial on 09/27/2018

Print Headline: Vote for reform

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Archived Comments

  • WGT
    September 27, 2018 at 7:32 a.m.

    Vote No on Issue 1.

  • Morebeer
    September 27, 2018 at 8:23 a.m.

    Zook doesn't care about Arkansans' health care, he represents business interests. Zook doesn't care that an Arkansan of limited means wronged by a corporation can't afford an attorney to pursue years of depositions, court filings, document requests and other trial preparations without resources committed by a law firm — a firm that wouldn't commit the resources unless it believed in the plaintiff's case. What Zook believes in is tilting the playing field to corporations, who can field a phalanx of attorneys and spend millions, while he would limit the resources available to wronged Arkansans. Argument made here is shameful.

  • Skeptic1
    September 27, 2018 at 8:38 a.m.

    This is being bank rolled by the medical and nursing home associations and they trot out a version of Issue 1 in every election. There very few if any frivolous medical practice suits filed as these suits are extremely expensive for attorneys to prosecute and on a contingency basis. Punitive damages are meant to deter bad behavior and negligence, how much is one's life worth exactly?

  • GOHOGS19
    September 27, 2018 at 8:53 a.m.

    Zook is 100% accurate. if the attorneys are against it, I'm for it.

  • mrcharles
    September 27, 2018 at 10:59 a.m.

    SEKEPTIC1, When Kudo's are due, they are REALLY due. Well thought out statement AND with humanity seemingly being foremost in your mind [worthy of the human race]. On behalf of the ones without the massive power of the shock of stand by high paid attorneys, a Salute is due!

    This column by the Chamber of Commerce's friend, reminds me of MM and his pig farm columns and his arguments against the problems created by pig farms. Smells the same.

    Think I will watch, "Thank you for not Smoking", again.

    For some good arguments against Issue 1 [ or as some call it, please bend over] review some of the that great talking primate, Ted the Cruz in his arguments for Plaintiffs in court and in his briefs in appeals. Succient reasons why , #1 his is a hypocrite and #2 [ appropriate for TEd cruz] why the businesses, that apparently breed high priced lawyers like flys create maggots, do not want justice, they want to NOT have responsibility for their actions [ reread the Ford company logic in having exploding gas tanks in the death trap pinto!]

    Three cheers for Skeptic1 and the Family Council [ restricted to their position on this issue], a acorn has been found!

  • UoABarefootPhdFICYMCA
    September 27, 2018 at 11:33 a.m.

    This is really a pro-meat market meme?

    Randu ZOOK is a space alien with aids.

  • UoABarefootPhdFICYMCA
    September 27, 2018 at 11:34 a.m.

    If the attorneys are against it you are for it... Thats all you need to know? Somebody lock that idiot up. Alot of attorneys who believe in truth and justice are against it too.

  • RBear
    September 27, 2018 at 12:17 p.m.

    Randy Zook doesn't tell all the story on this proposition. Sure, he pushes the economic benefits of tort reform and will give you some interesting facts, many that can be disputed if you look at TX which is the tort reform king of the nation.
    ...
    What Zook doesn't address of the initiative is Section 3, which is creating the biggest opposition to Issue 1. Section 3 turns judicial procedure over to the legislature and takes it out of the hands of the courts. Before some of you stop on that point because of your distrust of the courts, think about what we've seen the past year in terms of corruption from the legislature in both chambers. Think of who has the most influence on those chambers, namely lobbyists.
    ...
    Here's another fact that is often not heard about regarding Section 3. If passed, AR would be only the third state in the Union to allow such an action, the other two being NY and NC. Even TX, the king of reform, doesn't allow that and for good reason. Section 3 is the overreach of the legislature in an attempt to give control of the courts over to the lobbyists. It is probably the single biggest reason to vote AGAINST Issue 1.

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