Ga. Senate Introduces Civil Justice Reform Bill

February 13, 2003

The National Association of Independent Insurers (NAII) said that over 20 Georgia senators are sponsoring a bipartisan civil justice reform act designed to address the high cost of health care and patient access.

“The fact that this bill has such tremendous bipartisan support is testimony to the immediate need for reform,” James Taylor, southeastern regional manager for the NAII, said. “Georgia’s health care system is collapsing under the weight of lawsuits. We applaud the efforts of the supporting lawmakers and their recognition that the medical liability crisis is the direct result of an excessively litigious environment.”

The bipartisan Common Sense Civil Justice Reform Act of 2003, S.B. 133, will reform Georgia’s civil justice system by addressing two crucial concerns—the high cost of health care and patient access.

Key elements include:

· Establishing expert witness qualifications;
· Amending the dismissal rule to limit the number of times a plaintiff can dismiss a case and prohibiting all dismissals once the defendant files an answer; ·
· Allocating damages in proportion to a party’s degree of fault;
· Reducing any award by the individual’s own contribution to his or her alleged injury;
· Establishing a $250,000 cap on noneconomic damages;
· Protecting patients’ rights to recover economic damages such as future medical expenses and loss of future earnings; ·
· Reforming collateral sources by offsetting awards with other sources of compensation received by the plaintiff;
· Establishing a $250,000 limit on punitive damages for product liability; ·
· Modifying pre-post judgment interest from 12 percent to a predictable level reflective of the actual market; and
· Limiting venue shopping to encourage greater award stability.

The bill is cosponsored by more than 20 senators including Senate President Pro Tempore Eric Johnson (R-Savannah), Senate Caucus and Rules Chairman Don Balfour (R-Snellville), Sen. Hugh Gillis (D-Soperton), Sen. Terrell Starr (D-Jonesboro) and Sen. Liane Levetan (D-Atlanta).

The bill is also supported by the Medical Association of Georgia, the Georgia Hospital Association, the Georgia Chamber of Commerce, the National Federation of Independent Business, Daimler-Chrysler Corporation, Georgia Pacific Corporation, Georgia Retail Association and the Association of Georgia’s Textile, Carpet and Consumer Products Manufacturers.

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