The group formed to discourage medical malpractice and, particularly, negligence lawsuits against nursing homes have already raised more than $313,000 to gather signatures to put the amendment on the ballot in November.
The amendment would cap attorney fees and “non-economic” damages from negligence and malpractice at a paltry $250,000. Should an elderly woman die in abject pain in a nursing home in, let us say, Greenbrier, because staff failed a doctor’s orders for hospitalization? There’d be no jury verdicts of $5.2 million. There’d be no worry that a bribe to a judge might reduce such an award to, say, $1 million. The life of this mistreated elderly bedridden person would be worth $250,000 — period. Legal fees, after costs, would be capped at $83,000 — not much for cases that can sometimes take months if not years, often spent fighting the insurance schemes and corporate veils by which nursing homes have already severely limited means of recovery for negligence.
If you doubt how much money is at stake, consider only this campaign.
According to Ethics Commission filings, the Arkansas Health Care Association (the state nursing home lobby) has already chipped in $250,000. When the advertising begins, if sufficient signatures are gathered, you can multiply that many times over. Another $50,000 come from RHC Operations, a nursing home chain based in Conway headed by Bryan and Brandon Adams. Another $12,000 came from Crestpark nursing homes. Some pharmacists and doctors also chipped in small amounts.
The nursing home industry covers its bases. You may recall heavy spending by nursing homes in a range of judicial races in 2014. Michael Morton — owner of the Greenbrier nursing home referenced above — and the RHC interests were big players, particularly, in the Supreme Court race by Rhonda Wood. Nursing homes provided the majority of Justice Wood’s initial fund-raising, which undoubtedly helped discourage opposition.
The group pushing this blockade to the courthouse, the misleadingly named Health Care Access for Arkansans (access to the vault for nursing homes is more like it), has already spent about $250,000, most of it to a company that gathers signatures on petitions, which are due next month.