The November election is only a few weeks away. The community tends to focus on the local races within Jackson County, but is important to know the other issues on the ballot. Within the next few issues, I will examine the issues on the ballot, try to break them down into a language we as ordinary citizens can understand and hope that we all can make informed decisions.
There are five Arkansas issues on the ballot this November. Issue 1 is an amendment concerning civil lawsuits and the powers of the General Assembly and Supreme Court to adopt court rules.
Issue 1 proposes to add a section to Article 7 (judicial department). The addition would prohibit attorneys from collecting a contingency fee that is more than 1/3 of the net amount of money a client receives in a civil lawsuit. A civil case usually involves private disputes between persons or organizations. An example would be if a person was killed in a vehicle by a drunk driver. It would be a civil case if the family of the victim sued the driver for money. If the court awarded the family $ 500,000, the attorney could not receive more than roughly $ 167,000.
In addition, Issue 1 would make changes to Workmen’s Compensation Laws; Actions for Personal Injuries. The section would define the terms “non-economic damages” and “punitive damages.” The definition of non-economic damages is money paid for harms such as severe pain, physical and emotional distress and disfigurement, loss of the enjoyment of life for an injury has caused, including sterility, loss of sexual organs, physical impairment. Punitive damages by definition are damages exceeding simple compensation, more as a punishment to deter the same future behavior. The issue would establish a maximum amount of money a person receives as punitive in a lawsuit related to injuries resulting in death, or injuries to person or property. Bottom line, it would establish a $500,000 maximum limit that an injured person or the beneficiaries combined can receive as non-economic damages in a lawsuit.
Compensatory damages of $ 500,000 are the amount the injured would have earned in two years. The loss of his life would cause economic hardship on the wife. Over the course of the deceased possible 30 year career, he would have earned $ 15 million.
Other changes include allowing the state legislature to pass laws amending or repealing the rules of pleading, practice, or procedure.