Monday the Georgia Senate, following a vote Thursday in the House of Representatives, completed action on major tort reform legislation. The bill (S.B. 3), which includes important medical liability reform provisions, now goes to the governor for his signature. The American Insurance Association (AIA) praised the General Assembly’s quick action on this long sought-after legislation.
“S.B. 3 should improve the stability and predictability of Georgia’s liability environment for insurers, and that’s good news for consumers, health care providers and businesses,” said Raymond Farmer, AIA assistant vice president, Southeast Region. “The ability to attract and keep businesses, medical facilities and providers is directly related to a state’s litigation environment, and in recent years Georgia’s has shown signs of weakness. A multi-year legislative effort to address the issue was not successful until this year, when the Republican leadership in the House and Senate, a well as the state’s business and medical communities, made tort reform their top priority.”
S.B. 3 was amended in the House. Most significantly, the House increased the cap on non-economic damages in medical malpractice actions from $250,000 to $350,000, and from $750,000 to $1.05 million for multiple defendants. Additionally, the standard for claims involving emergency care providers was changed from “willful or wanton misconduct” to “gross negligence.” These changes were accepted by the Senate.
The primary provisions of S.B. 3 are as follows:
• eliminates joint and several liability;
• strengthens the standards for admissibility of expert witness testimony;
• provides for venue reform involving multiple defendants;
• provides incentives for out of court settlements;
• limits emergency room liability; and,
• requires insurers and doctors to report all judgments and settlements to the state Board of Medical Examiners.
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