AIA Calls Georgia Supreme Court Decision a Blow to Tort Reform

February 14, 2006

In a setback for Georgia’s recent progress on civil justice reform, the state Supreme Court overturned a key venue law, which was part of the comprehensive tort reform legislation enacted in 2005, according to the American Insurance Association (AIA).

The court ruled unanimously in EHCA Cartersville, LLC v. Turner that the provision contained in S.B. 3, which gives medical malpractice defendants the right to decide in which county their case is to be tried, is unconstitutional. The objective of the provision was to prevent a plaintiff’s lawyer from venue shopping to find a more sympathetic jury pool.

“Today marks the one-year anniversary of the passage of S.B. 3,which included significant medical liability reform provisions,” said Raymond G. Farmer, AIA assistant vice president, Southeast Region. “Yesterday’s decision is a blow to the goal of leveling the playing field for plaintiffs and defendants alike regarding venue in medical malpractice cases.”

The section of the law at issue provides that, in a medical malpractice action, a nonresident defendant can ask that a case be transferred to the defendant’s resident county if that is where the alleged act occurred.

“Last year’s passage of S.B. 3 sent an important message about the state’s determination to improve the stability and predictability of Georgia’s liability environment,” said Farmer. “Unfortunately, this venue provision was not given an opportunity to prove its worth. We hope that the court will not take the same approach and strike down other provisions of this civil justice reform law that is critical to Georgia’s economic future.”

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