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Arkansas Supreme Court strikes down part of state's tort reform

Arkansas News, "Court: Two provisions in 2003 tort reform law unconstitutional": "Responding to questions submitted to the court by U.S. District Judge Leon Holmes, the court said portions of Act 649 of 2003, also known as the Civil Justice Reform Act, are unconstitutional because they affect procedural issues that are the province of the state Supreme Court, in violation of the separation-of-powers clause of the Arkansas Constitution...."Rules regarding (legal) pleading, practice and procedure are solely the responsibility of this court," Justice Paul Danielson wrote in the high court's answer."

The case dealt with a worker at an Eastman Chemical plant, Darrell Johnson, who sued Rockwell Automation over the design of a "starter bucket" he blamed for the injuries. At issue was "deep pocket" joint liability versus "fair share" several liability, and a separate question of the "collateral source rule" -- when a plaintiff is compensated not just by the primary wrongdoer but by collateral sources (insurance companies).

The opinion in Johnson v. Rockwell Automation, Inc is available here. My employers at the NAM joined with a broad coalition of business and insurance associations in an amicus brief supporting the constitutionality of the Arkansas law. You can read the brief and case summary at the Legal Beagle entry.

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Rafael Mangual
Project Manager,
Legal Policy

Katherine Lazarski
Manhattan Institute


Published by the Manhattan Institute

The Manhattan Insitute's Center for Legal Policy.