Opponents of the proposed constitutional amendment to insulate nursing homes against damage lawsuits filed today their brief with the Arkansas Supreme Court arguing that the sponsors had failed to gather enough valid signatures of registered voters to make the ballot.

A special master has issued proposed findings of fact on the issue that take the same view. The issue is compliance with stringent new rules for paid petition canvassers established in a 2013 law.


In this case, challengers say the sponsors failed to submit certification that paid canvassers had passed a criminal background check; the sponsors of the amendment, Health Care Access for Arkansas, did not obtain a State Police background check for each canvasser, and signatures were submitted by ineligible canvassers.

Two separate sets of arguments challenge the sufficiency of the ballot title for the amendment, which would allow a cap on non-economic damages as low as $250,000 and limit contingency attorney fees to a third of any recovery, less costs.


The proponents of the amendment also will be filing a brief, not yet in the record, defending the signatures.

Interesting thing: Many of the flaws cited here have also been cited in the challenge to sufficiency of signatures for the amendment to allow three more casinos in Arkansas. To be simplistic: The business establishment in Arkansas supports tort reform but opposes the casino amendment because it is opposed by the two existing casino operators, Oaklawn and Southland. It is hard to see a way to decisions that aren’t parallel on these two signature challenges. To a certain degree, this is also true on challenges to signatures for the initiated medical marijuana act, also opposed by the business establishment. In every case, challenges to the ballot titles also exist.


Noted also: No advertising has begun for the nursing home amendment campaign, while pro and con advertising is already running heavily on the casino amendment. And, as yet, additional financial support from other medical providers hasn’t turned up on the campaign for the limit on nursing home lawsuit damages, which would also apply to other health care providers. Do they see where this is heading? Is the bigger plan a new try at the 2017 legislative session for a tort reform measure that goes beyond lawsuit caps to some of the fundamental reworking of the law to diminish control of the Arkansas Supreme Court over judicial proceedings.