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Nursing home tort “reform” and caps in Arkansas

As you may know by now, a ballot measure will be circulating soon in Arkansas to limit the amount of money a jury can award a Plaintiff in a nursing home malpractice suit.

“There are too many frivolous lawsuits,” they say. “These lawyers are making our health care costs skyrocket!”

Well, take the following as an example. I’m representing the family of a mother who was being admitted to a nursing home on the Texas-side of Texarkana. She routinely choked on her food, so during the admission meeting, the family made it a point to make sure the staff of the nursing home understood that she needs special attention when eating.

In an effort to secure their business, the nursing home promised to have someone watch her while she ate her meals. Satisfied that the nursing home understood, the family had their mother admitted to the nursing home.

On her first meal, the family’s mother was served chicken spaghetti, but no one from the nursing home watched her as they promised they would. She choked. She couldn’t get anyone’s attention to help her breathe. She died.

The family was understandably astounded after just explaining this entire process and gaining the affirmation from the nursing home. They wanted to make sure this doesn’t happen to someone else’s mom.

Under Texas law, the nursing home can only be made to pay a limit of $250,000 for any negligence or malpractice. Because nursing homes know that it costs a sizable amount to hire doctors and experts and jump through the procedural minefield to bring a medical malpractice case to the courthouse, they’ll fight tooth and nail to pay any amount, even the burial costs.

If this is the type of environment you want in Arkansas, by all means, support the ballot measure. However, if you believe that juries are capable of considering these scenarios on a case-by-case basis, then please consider not signing this ballot measure when you’re asked to do so.

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Steve Harrelson
Steve Harrelson
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