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Officials should consider overhauling Arkansas' tort laws, Sanders says

by Michael R. Wickline | May 17, 2023 at 3:39 p.m.
Gov. Sarah Huckabee Sanders spekas a ceremonial bill signing ceremony at Little Rock Air Force Base in Jacksonville in this May 9, 2023 file photo.(Arkansas Democrat-Gazette/Thomas Metthe)

State officials should explore the possibility of overhauling Arkansas’ tort laws, Gov. Sarah Huckabee Sanders said Wednesday at the Arkansas Trucking Association’s annual conference.

The Republican governor made the comment in response to a question from an audience member about where her administration stands on tackling “tort reform” in the state.

“I think it is something that we certainly have to have on the table [and] it certainly has to be part of the conversation,” Sanders said before about 300 people attending the trucking association’s annual conference in Little Rock. “It wasn’t something that became a big priority during this [year’s regular] session, but I wouldn’t be surprised if it comes up even during our fiscal session next year.”

The fiscal session in 2024 will begin in April because of the presidential primary election in March, Sanders said. The fiscal session is slated to begin April 10. Arkansas’ primary election is slated for March 5.

She said “there is a lot ongoing discussions” in the state about overhauling the state’s tort laws.

“I think it is something we certainly to take a look at and engage and see what opportunities are in front of us for Arkansas,” Sanders said.

In 2016, the Arkansas Supreme Court struck down a citizen-referred constitutional amendment because the sponsor failed to provide an appropriate definition of “non-economic damages” for which caps were sought.

In 2018, the Arkansas Supreme Court nixed a proposed constitutional amendment referred to voters by the General Assembly from the ballot. The court said lawmakers illegally rolled into a single amendment the separate issues of capping lawsuit damages, limiting attorney fees and granting the Legislature the authority to amend court rules.

During the 2019, 2021 and 2023 regular sessions, the General Assembly hasn’t referred proposed constitutional amendments to voters to change the state’s tort laws.


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