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Georgia tort reform: both passed and pending

On February 16, at Northridge Hospital, Governor Sonny Perdue signed S.B. 3, an impressive package of tort reforms. (Chuck Williams, "Perdue signs tort reform bill", Columbus Ledger-Enquirer, Feb. 17; Mike Norbut, "Georgia enacts tort reform package", American Medical News, Mar. 7). Key provisions:

  • joint and several liability eliminated;
  • an offering party may recover its attorneys fees if the final judgment is not at least 25% more favorable than the offer;
  • implementation of the Daubert standard (Nordberg comments);
  • immunity for emergency rooms and ER providers in absence of "gross negligence" (Jan. 11; Oct. 25);
  • non-economic medical malpractice damages capped at $350,000 per entity, $1,050,000 total; and
  • medical providers may apologize without fear that apology will be used against them in court.

One unique provision permits the decision of whether a claim or defense is sufficiently meritless to require the payment of attorneys' fees to be given to the jury for decision (though the statute unfortunately leaves unclear whether this will require jurors to parse questions of law in some instances). There's also an interesting and apparently unique provison for venue transfer when all resident co-defendants are dismissed from the case. Unfortunately, this provision, � 9-10-31(d), appears to have some curious (and perhaps poorly-drafted) attributes that may permit or encourage tactical gamesmanship by both plaintiffs and defendants. I haven't seen any discussion on these two issues, but I'm happy to be corrected or edified.

The Georgia Senate has also passed by an overwhelming margin SB 19, which permits the interlocutory appeal of class certifications, as well as provisions that reduce the expense of pre-class-certification-decision discovery. (When judges let discovery on substantive issues go ahead for a purported class action that has little or no chance of certification, plaintiffs have an incentive to increases the pressure for defendants to settle by delaying the certification decision and conducting expensive discovery. The Georgia law now prohibits this tactic without substantial justification.) The bill now goes to the Georgia House for consideration.



Rafael Mangual
Project Manager,
Legal Policy

Manhattan Institute


Published by the Manhattan Institute

The Manhattan Insitute's Center for Legal Policy.