House Committee Takes on Tort Reform

January 17, 2003
Posted at: 5:06 p.m. CDT

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. -- In a harbinger of what's to come, the House Judiciary Committee this morning spent an hour debating how to structure the debate over legislation that would limit civil damage awards.

In the end, the committee decided to debate the issue starting at 9 a.m. on January 28 and meeting throughout the day, giving each side at least four hours. The committee agreed it could return another day if need be.

Large jury awards have prompted skyrocketing costs for health and liability insurance, leading some in Arkansas and other states to call for tort limits. The legislation would limit the liability of one defendant for the acts of another defendant in the same lawsuit, and set stricter standards for punitive damages. It also would limit punitive damage awards to $250,000.

Supporters, including the medical community, say the bill would ensure that Arkansans have access to affordable health care. Some opponents, including trial lawyers, say the insurance industry should change, not the judicial process.

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