The Committee to Protect AR Families was formed July 12. It says it is fighting corporate nursing home owners’ “misguided attempt to remove Arkansans’ rights granted to the people in the state’s constitution.” A statement from volunteer leader Martha Deaver, whose own experience with treatment of family members in nursing home has made her an activist:
This committee is prepared to fight for Arkansas families because nursing home owners are trying to place an arbitrary value on a human life by changing the state constitution. We believe all human life is invaluable, but if the corporate nursing home owners have their way, the lives of our children, our disabled and our elderly will be given a value of only $250,000 each.
We are working to preserve Arkansans’ rights to hold these corporate nursing home owners accountable when they abuse and neglect people.
I am honored to lead this fight and appreciate the legal community for helping our initial fundraising efforts. They have been instrumental in fighting the corrupt nursing home owners and their high-paid lobbyists while protecting Arkansan’s rights to a trial by jury.
This effort is about putting people first over corporate nursing home profits.
The amendment would limit so-called non-economic damages to $250,000 and attorney fees to a third of the award. This ends punitive damages and caps damages for pain and suffering. As a practical matter, it will discourage most lawsuits on behalf of children, the elderly and the disabled. The nursing home lobby and allies have raised more than $600,000 to get the measure on the ballot and are likely to spend a great deal more. Michael Morton, the Fort Smith nursing home magnate, has contributed perhaps $250,000 to the effort so far.
The news release didn’t identify the source of the money, but you can see the contributors here.
The money comes entirely from lawyers and law firms, which will naturally give some ammunition to the nursing homes and sympathizers like the right-wing Arkansas Democrat-Gazette editorial page, which believes the amendment is necessary to stop to frivolous lawsuits and runaway verdicts, neither of which is much in evidence in Arkansas.
Top contributors, accounting for $375,000 of the first month’s report, are the McDaniel Law Firm, $100,000; Joey McCutchen of Fort Smitth, $100,000; Simmons, Hanley, Conroy of Alton, Ill., $75,000; and $50,000 each from Brad Hendricks and Rainwater Holt and Sexton, both of Little Rock. Thomas Buchanan of Little Rock gave $6,000. He’s the lawyer who won a unanimous $5.2 million jury verdict in conservative Faulkner County over the failure of a Michael Morton-owned home in Greenbrier to provide doctor-ordered hospitalization for an elderly woman in excruciating pain, who died soon after. Then-Judge Mike Maggio reduced the verdict to $1 million. He later admitted he reduced the verdict in return for campaign contributions from Michael Morton arranged by former Republican Sen. Gilbert Baker. Maggio has tried to withdraw his plea and is trying to have his conviction overturned. While Morton and Baker have acknowledged the campaign contributions, they have said they were legally made and not intended as bribes. They have not been charged.