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Amendment 1 proposes changes to civil suits

By submitted, 10/12/18 7:41 AM

NOTICE FOR AMENDMENT

REFERRED TO THE PEOPLE BY THE ARKANSAS

GENERAL ASSEMBLY

Issue No. 1

NOTICE TO THE PUBLIC

Pursuant to Article 19, Section 22, of the Arkansas Constitution, the  91st General Assembly refers the following constitutional amendment to a vote of the people on November 6, 2018, and will appear on the ballot as Issue No. 1. Each elector upon voting his/her ballot shall vote for or against this amendment. Underlined language would be added to the present Constitution.

Stricken language would be deleted from the present Constitution. This Amendment was proposed in the Regular 2017 Session by Senator M. Irvin and filed as SJR 8.

Popular Name

An Amendment Concerning Civil Lawsuits and the Powers of the General Assembly and

Supreme Court to Adopt Court Rules.

Ballot Title

A proposed amendment to the Arkansas Constitution providing that a contingency fee for an

attorney in a civil lawsuit shall not exceed thirty three and one-third percent (33 1/3 %) of the net

recovery; defining “contingency fee” as an attorney’s fee that is paid only if the claimant recovers money; providing that the General Assembly may amend the foregoing percentage by a two-thirds (2/3) vote of each house; limiting punitive damages awards for each claimant in lawsuits for personal injury, property damage, or wrongful death to the greater of (i) five hundred thousand dollars ($500,000), or (ii) three (3) times the amount of compensatory damages awarded; defining “punitive damages” as damages assessed to punish and deter wrongful conduct; providing that the General Assembly may not decrease the foregoing limitations on punitive damages but may increase the limitations by a two-thirds (2/3) vote of each house; providing that the limitations on punitive damages do not apply if the factfinder determines by clear and convincing evidence that the defendant intentionally pursued a course of conduct for the purpose of causing injury or damage to the claimant and that such intentional conduct harmed the claimant; limiting awards of non-economic damages in lawsuits for personal injury, property damage, or wrongful death to (i) five hundred thousand dollars ($500,000) for each claimant, or (ii) five hundred thousand dollars ($500,000) for all beneficiaries of an individual deceased person in the aggregate in a lawsuit for wrongful death; defining “non-economic damages” as damages that cannot be measured in money, including pain and suffering, mental and emotional distress, loss of life or companionship, or visible result of injury; providing that the General Assembly may not decrease the foregoing limitations on non-economic damages but may increase the limitations by a two-thirds (2/3) vote of each house; providing that the General Assembly shall adopt a procedure to adjust the dollar limitations on punitive damages and non-economic damages in future years to account for inflation or deflation; providing that the Supreme Court’s power to prescribe rules of pleading, practice, and procedure for courts is subject to the provisions of this amendment; providing that the General Assembly, by a three-fifths vote of each house, may amend or repeal a rule prescribed by the Supreme Court and may adopt other rules of pleading, practice, or procedure on its own initiative; providing that rules of pleading, practice, and procedure in effect on January 1, 2019, shall continue in effect until amended, superseded, or repealed under the provisions of this amendment; providing that a rule of pleading, practice, or procedure enacted by the General Assembly shall supersede a conflicting rule of pleading, practice, or procedure prescribed by the Supreme Court; providing that certain other rules promulgated by the Supreme Court may be annulled or amended by a three-fifths (3/5) vote of each house of the General Assembly instead of a two-thirds (2/3) vote as presently stated in the Arkansas Constitution; and providing that this amendment becomes effective on January 1, 2019.

(Complete Text of Proposed Amendment)

SECTION 1. Arkansas Constitution, Article 7, is amended to add an additional section to read as

follows: § 53. Contingency fees.

(a) As used in this section, “contingency fee” means an attorney’s fee that is paid only if the

claimant recovers money by way of settlement, arbitration, or judgment.

(b) A contingency fee for legal representation in a civil action shall not exceed thirty-three and

one-third percent (33 1/3 %) of the net amount of the recovery, whether obtained by settlement,

arbitration, or judgment.

(c) Beginning with the 2019 regular session, by a majority vote of each house, the General

Assembly shall enact laws necessary for the proper implementation of this section, including

without limitation laws:

(1) Establishing penalties for contingency fees that exceed the maximum under this section; and

(2) Defining terms in subsection (b) of this section as necessary, including without limitation

defining the phrase “net amount of the recovery”.

(d) By a two-thirds vote of each house, the General Assembly may enact laws amending the

maximum percentage for contingency fees for legal representation under subdivision (b) of this

section.

SECTION 2. Arkansas Constitution, Article 5, Section 32, is amended to read as follows:

  • 32. Workmen’s Compensation Laws

Actions for personal injuries resulting in death or injuries to persons or property.

(a) As used in this section:

(1) “Non-economic damages” means damages that cannot be measured in money, including

without limitation any loss or damage, however characterized, for pain and suffering, mental and

emotional distress, loss of life or companionship, or visible result of injury; and

(2) “Punitive damages” means damages to punish and deter wrongful conduct.

(b) The General Assembly shall have power to enact laws prescribing the amount of

compensation to be paid by employers for injuries to or death of employees, and to whom said

payment shall be made. It shall have power to provide the means, methods, and forum

for adjudicating claims arising under said laws, and for securing payment of same. Provided,

that otherwise, except as provided in subsections (c), (d), and (e) of this section, no law shall be

enacted limiting the amount to be recovered for injuries resulting in death or for injuries to

persons or property; and in case of death from such injuries the right of action shall survive, and

the General Assembly shall prescribe for whose benefit such action shall be prosecuted.