Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Nursing home lobby pours more into amendment to limit lawsuits

Posted By on Tue, Aug 16, 2016 at 7:18 AM

The Arkansas Health Care Association — the lobby group for the nursing home industry — reported Monday (link corrected) that it had put $250,000 more, for a total of $580,000 so far into the constitutional amendment to cap awards in damage lawsuits (negligence, malpractice, etc.) at $250,000 and cap attorney fees at a third of the award.

The cap on "non-economic" damages will particularly discourage lawsuits in behalf of children, the elderly and the disabled — all of whom rarely have lost earnings at issue when victims of abuse and neglect.

The latest contribution drew another blast from the Committee to Protect AR Families, a group formed to fight the amendment and financed so far by lawyers.

The so called group “Health Care Access for Arkansans” continued to prove it is nothing but a shell organization for the corporate nursing home industry. With more than $260,000 in donations received from corporate nursing home owners during this period, this organization is determined to spend whatever it takes to limit the rights of Arkansans while removing any accountability for corporate nursing homes.

Statement from Martha Deaver, Director of the Committee to Protect AR Families:

I have seen firsthand the damage that corporate nursing homes can do to families in Arkansas; it is why I am serving as Director of the Campaign to Protect AR Families. Nursing home lobbyists continue to deceive voters to pass an amendment that would place an arbitrary value on human life of $250,000. To-date, corporate nursing home owners have now spent more than $840,000 to take away Arkansans’ constitutional right to a trial by jury.
The reference to $840,000 in spending includes the Health Care Association contributions and contributions from individual nursing home owners directly to the ballot committee. These include Michael Morton of Fort Smith, whose roughly 70 nursing home corporations likely account for about a third of the Health Care Association spending through proportionate dues payments, plus more than $100,000 in direct contributions from his various entities. Campaign contributions from Morton, arranged by former Republican Sen. Gilbert Baker, were said by former Circuit Judge Mike Maggio to have influenced his decision to reduce a jury verdict against a Morton nursing home in Greenbrier from $5.2 million to $1 million. The nursing home failed to follow a doctor's orders to hospitalize an elderly patient in great pain. She died shortly after.

PS: As a technical matter, the amendment will leave it to the legislature to set the cap on damages, which can't be lower than $250,000. The odds that the Arkansas legislature will set a cap higher than the $250,000 in Texas — where Republicans luxuriate in the crippling of damage lawsuits — are not good.

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