University of Arkansas, Fayetteville


Without question, reforming America's civil justice system has become a hot button issue in today's political landscape. While most Americans move about their daily lives without giving the subject a second thought, politicians ranging from aspiring state assemblymen to the recently reelected George W Bush have placed tort reform at the forefront of American political affairs. Although problems plaguing American courts have been discussed for years, criticism of America's current system for adjudicating tort cases has reached a fever pitch. Among the more vocal critics are powerful lobbyist groups, such as the American Medical Association (AMA) and the American Tort Reform Association (ATRA), who believe the current civil justice system is responsible for increases in liability insurance, a decrease in the quality of health care, and an overall increase in the cost of doing business. Opposing groups, such as the Association of Trial Lawyers of America (ATLA), believe it is the right of every American consumer to have their day in court and punish corporations and doctors for committing civil offenses against them. And sandwiched in the middle of this fiasco are the thousands of politicians, businessmen, doctors, and ordinary citizens who are left scratching their heads when they try and figure it all out. This paper attempts to explain the debate surrounding tort reform on both the national and state levels. Further, it summarizes each section of Arkansas Act 649 of 2003, better known as the Civil Justice Reform Act of 2003 (the "Act"), and point to any obvious benefits to the business community as a result of the reforms. A more challenging topic this paper covers is whether or not tort reform, specifically the Act, will provide future economic benefits to the state of Arkansas. This paper attempts to make the direct link been legal reforms and increases in economic output as measured by personal income levels. The model is intended to be very simplistic yet still provide a picture of how tort reform may or may not benefit Arkansas' economy in the future.