The Arkansas Supreme Court affirmed a lower court ruling on Thursday holding that votes for Issue 1 will not be counted as it violates the Arkansas Constitution. Issue one would have capped damages in lawsuits.
The Court upheld the lower court ruling that Issue 1 log-rolled multiple, separate issues into the same proposed constitutional amendment measure. The vote was 5-1-1. Five justices joined in the majority opinion, one justice (Rhonda Wood) concurred with the outcome but disagreed with the full analysis, and Justice Shawn Womack dissented.
Issue One was a proposed constitutional amendment referred by the Arkansas legislature during the 2017 legislative session (SJR8). It would have capped non-economic damages in lawsuits at $500,000. It would have put in a government mandated price control on how much attorneys and their clients could agree to for compensation. It would have given the Arkansas legislature the rule making authority over the courts rules of procedure and evidence.
The measure was the most debated ballot measure ahead of the 2018 November election with millions spent on both sides of the issue. Those pushing for the measure included nursing homes, hospitals, insurance companies, the trucking association, and other large corporations. Opposed to the measure were Pro-Life organizations like the Family Council Action Committee and individuals including Rose Mimms (executive director – AR Right to Life). Also opposed to the measure was the fiscal conservative, pro-business organization Conduit for Action. Trial lawyers and the Arkansas Bar association also opposed the measure.