The nursing home industry in Arkansas recently attempted to put an issue on the ballot which, if passed, would have changed the Arkansas Constitution and allowed the legislature to set the value of non-economic damages in medical cases at no less than $250,000.00. (Fortunately, our Supreme Court found the initiative, particularly the phrase “non-economic damages” inadequately defined and struck it from the ballot.) Had this actually become law, and had our legislature actually set “non-economic damages” at $250,000.00, then whether it knew it or not, it would have been limiting a jury’s right to set the value of life itself at no more than $250,000.00.
Right now in Arkansas, if someone in your family is taken out of this world through negligent, careless or intentional conduct of another, a jury is given the power to compensate certain family members for grief and loss of financial support, but also, the estate of the decedent is entitled to recover certain things. One of these elements of “damages” is “loss of life.”
Our Supreme Court has explained in case law that a jury must use the evidence presented at trial to determine the value your deceased loved one would have placed on his or her own life. (Think about that for a moment. If you were killed as a result of “wrongful” conduct tomorrow, a jury might be asked to determine the value you placed on your life.)
The best trial lawyers in Arkansas understand that building a wrongful death case for trial, entails learning everything there is to know about the life that was lost — from every available resource. The best case preparation involves spending a great deal of time with family members and close friends of the decedent; going to his or her church; visiting his school or place of work; studying family videos and photographs, and really listening to every story that can be told about the person whose life will be the focus of the trial. (Sort of brings to mind what Atticus Finch told his young daughter in Harper Lee’s amazing book, To Kill a Mockingbird.)
“First of all,” he said, “if you can learn a simple trick, Scout, you’ll get along a lot better with all kinds of folks. You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view […] until you climb into his skin and walk around in it.”
It is only after such intense, serious and focused personal study, that a good trial lawyer begins to truly understand what evidence best illustrates the value that your love one placed on his or her life. With this knowledge, a trial strategy can be developed that presents real and substantial evidence so that a jury can be provided genuine facts to look to in making such an important determination.
Fortunately, in Arkansas, juries will retain the power that our Founding Fathers intended and the nursing home industry will not use our constitution (and then its powerful lobby) to convince the legislature to set a very low arbitrary limit on the value of life …at least for now. (Probably a very good thing for everyone who is now, or ever will be, in a nursing home.) It’s also a good thing for every family who has lost a child …born or unborn.
Mulkey Law Firm has proudly represented families who have lost loved ones for over twenty-five years. We respect life and believe that all lives have tremendous value. Please click HERE to read our latest client ratings and reviews.