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Coalition files suit against tort reform.

A coalition of the Arkansas Advocates for Nursing Home Residents, the Arkansas AFL-CIO, the Arkansas Trial Lawyers Association and individual plaintiffs has filed a legal challenge to Arkansas' new tort reform law.

The group has asked the Arkansas Supreme Court to declare unconstitutional Act 649 of 2003, also known as the Civil Justice Reform Act, and to order the state's courts not to enforce the law.

The law limits damage awards in civil cases, but the group claims that goes against a constitutional provision that prohibits any limitation of damages in all but workers' compensation cases without a constitutional amendment.

"This law is unconstitutional on its face," said Morgan "Chip" Welch, the Little Rock lawyer who is attorney for the group. "The Arkansas Constitution says you cannot put a monetary limit on what someone can be paid in damages. This law limits damage claims."

The group says the act infringes on the rights of victims to seek justice through the courts and the judicial branch of the government, which is charged with administering legal claims.

The act, among other things, set a $1 million limit on punitive damages in civil cases. Actual damages, however, are not limited.

Supporters of the measure said it was needed to prevent frivolous lawsuits, which could eventually lower malpractice and other liability insurance rates.

The Arkansas State Chamber of Commerce-Associated Industries of Arkansas, which maintains the law is needed for a healthy business climate in the state, plans to defend the law.
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Title Annotation:Legal; Arkansas Advocates for Nursing Home Residents; Arkansas AFL-CIO; Arkansas Trial Lawyers Association and individual plaintiffs
Author:Henry, John
Publication:Arkansas Business
Article Type:Brief Article
Geographic Code:1U7AR
Date:Apr 26, 2004
Words:247
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