Supreme Court Appoints a Special Task Force

On August 2, 2013, the Arkansas Supreme Court issued a per curiam opinion appointing a ten member task force to:

[r]eceive input on any perceived problems with and recommended changes to the Arkansas Rules of Civil Procedure involving parties, liability, and damages in civil litigation involving negligence, medical malpractice, and related cases.

(http://opinions.aoc.arkansas.gov/WebLink8/0/doc/317064/Electronic.aspx

The per curiam acknowledges political pressure in the last session of the General Assembly, and controversy over recent decisions of the Supreme Court.  No specifics are given, but presumably this is a reference to the confusion that began with the legislative abolition of joint and several liability in the Civil Justice Reform Act of 2003.  The confusion continued when the Court struck down parts (but not all) of the CJRA (Johnson v. Rockwell Automation, Inc., and other cases).  Cases this term (Metheny and Shelton) added pieces to the evolving puzzle, but did not solve it.  The legislature weighed in again with Act 1116, Arkansas Acts of 2013, overruling parts of Shelton (creating a right of allocation of fault among joint tortfeasors).

The per curiam briefly discusses the Civil Practice Committee’s role in vetting changes to the Rules of Civil Procedure, and the history of the bar working together to produce procedures for a fair court system.  The per curiam notes that no one has offered any proposals to the Civil Practice Committee on these issues:  “We note that there have been no recent recommendations submitted to the court or the committee concerning “damages and/or liability in civil litigation.”  Id. at 2.  The per curiam calls this a “failure” of those interested in these issues to submit their concerns to the court.

The task force is directed to submit its report and recommendations by December 31, 2013.

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