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What is tort reform, and what can it do for Arkansas?

Updated: Apr 13

To understand “tort reform,” first we must know what a “tort” is. Everyone knows what a crime is: if you commit a crime, the government may send you to prison. If you commit a tort, the government may make you give money to someone else. People who commit torts — who intend to harm others, or do something that is so risky that it harms others — are often required to compensate those they harm by paying them money. Tort reform is just the enactment of laws or policies that fix some of the abuses that are commonly seen in the tort system. The goal of tort reform is to improve the economic climate of the state and the fairness of the legal system. According to the Chamber of Commerce, Arkansas is in the bottom ten states when it comes to the state’s lawsuit climate, and in the bottom five states when it comes to the state’s handling of scientific and technical evidence.

Arkansas needs tort reform because it will make Arkansas healthier and wealthier. It will make Arkansas healthier because tort reform attracts health care professionals and it lets them do their jobs without fear of unreasonable litigation risk and lawsuit abuse. It will make Arkansans wealthier because it will attract jobs and businesses to Arkansas. One analysis found that over $112 billion came into Texas’s economy every year because of tort reform and created an additional 499,000 jobs in the state. After Texas passed tort reform, the number of doctors in Texas nearly doubled over the next decade – we need improvements like that in Arkansas, which currently ranks in the bottom 10% of states by doctors per person. In short, Arkansas could stand to learn from, and benefit by, Texas’s experience with tort reform.

This is the first in a series of posts that will explore the issues surrounding tort reform. 

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