Center for America

State Profiles

 
 

 

Georgia

 

Georgia's Sen. Smith Recaps Reform Success

Georgia State Senator Preston Smith joined CFA for an exclusive video interview recapping the passage of "the nation's strongest comprehensive civil justice reform package" and the coalition that made it happen. 

Senator Smith speaks frankly about the connection between the growing crisis of affordable health care, business growth and tort reform in Georgia.  Smith was the principal author of the tort reform package, which remarkably, passed the legislature on the 18th day of the legislative session.

The trial lawyers fought the bill with a great deal of money and a sophisticated campaign.  One day Sen. Smith found a rubber snake coiled up in his desk, although it is not clear who put it there.

While in the past Senator Smith had seen "business interests diverge as we got into the heat of battle", the success as he describes it can be attributed to the extraordinary coalition of state and national organizations, including large and small businesses, the medical community and others. Sen. Smith adds, "This is not about doctors versus lawyers." He adds, "This is much larger than that...this is about our viability as a state to continue  producing jobs and providing a place for people to live and work." 

View Interview

Georgia Speaker Richardson Speaks Out for Legal Reform
Atlanta, GA - In an exclusive video interview, Speaker Glenn Richardson of the Georgia  House of Representatives talks about the passage of landmark legal reform legislation in their most recent session. "Businesses are going to start coming to Georgia, and that's what we want", said the Speaker during his interview.  He speaks frankly about the opposition from the trial bar and why he took on personal responsibility in his leadership role to pass legal reform in 2005.

He speaks from the heart about the challenges faced by the House and the Senate as they struggled to find legislative solutions to specific issues faced by the business community as a result of old liability laws.  You will come away with a heightened understanding of the political dynamics that will again play out in other states as they grapple with their legal reform proposals. 

 Watch Speaker Richardson's Interview    View Speaker Richardson's Bio

Gov. Perdue Appoints Harold Melton to Chief Justice Vacancy

Atlanta, GA June 9, 2005- Georgia Gov. Sonny Perdue (R) today appointed his top legal adviser, Harold Melton, to the Georgia Supreme Court.  Melton, 38, is the first appointment by a Republican governor to the state’s highest court in 137 years.  He fills the unexpired term of former Chief Justice Norman Fletcher.  Melton will face re-election in 2008.

 

Perdue said he sought a justice who “would defer to the laws passed by the Legislature, not circumvent the democratic process.”

 

“Harold Melton best embodies the personal qualities, conservative principles and legal ability to serve the people of Georgia on the Supreme Court,” Perdue said.  “Harold, I believe, shares my philosophy that jurists should apply the laws passed by the legislative branch, upholding a strict constitutional separation of powers.”

 

Melton, who has served as Perdue’s executive counsel for two years, worked as an assistant attorney general for former Georgia Attorney General Michael J. Bowers.  Georgia Supreme Court justices serve six-year terms.  During Melton’s upcoming tenure, the Georgia Supreme Court is expected to consider high-profile cases involving civil justice/tort reform, school funding, and Georgia’s marriage amendment.

Enacting Civil Justice Reform: Lessons Learned From Georgia

March  3, 2005 - This year, Georgians win big -- from multinational corporations to small businesses to consumers and medical providers and their patients. In mid-February, Governor Sonny Perdue signed into law one of the nation’s most sweeping omnibus civil justice reform packages. Stunned, the trial lawyers’ organizations decried the speed at which the legislation passed and was enacted – less than a month from its introduction through committees to be passed by both chamber of the Georgia General Assembly – as a “railroad job.”

 

Governor Sonny Perdue and Southeastern Legal Foundation Executive Director Shannon Goessling at the bill signing

For those businesses, medical providers, consumers, activists and citizens who have labored in vain for enactment of reasonable civil justice reform in Georgia, the win in February was the culmination of a two-decade struggle. The Southeastern Legal Foundation, a public interest law firm, the Georgia Chamber of Commerce, the state’s vital business community link to government, the Medical Association of Georgia, representing the physicians’ interests, and the Georgia Hospital Association, contributed time, resources, attorney insight, and passion to the process.

 

Major provisions of the omnibus bill signed into law include elimination of joint and several liability in all cases, replaced by “proportional share” liability; offer of judgment to encourage settlement and discourage costly litigation; expert witness reform to the standard established in the U.S. Supreme Court’s Daubert decision; limits on liability for non-economic damages in medical malpractice cases to $350,000 per provider, up to a cap of $1,050,000; raises the standard in cases against hospital emergency rooms and ER doctors to “gross negligence;” and, unique to Georgia, allows a co-defendant to move a lawsuit back to his home county if venue “vanishes” when another defendant is dropped from a lawsuit.  Read Full Story

 

Georgia Governor Perdue Signs Historic Legal Reform Measure

February 17 -- Governor Perdue signed SB 3 into law, making it the first major legal reform legislation enacted at the state level in 2005.

 

After capturing majorities in the Georgia House and Senate in November for the first time in more than 100 years, it took the Republican House and Senate leadership less than six weeks into the new term to put a sweeping legal reform bill on the Governor's desk for signature.  Major provisions of the bill include:

  • Eliminates joint and several liability in all cases.

  • Provides for apportionment of fault.

  • Provides for offer of judgment wherein an offering party may obtain litigation costs, including attorney's fees, if the final judgment is not at least 25% more favorable than the offer.

  • Strengthens expert witness rules and includes the Daubert standard in civil cases.

  • Allows a co-defendant to move the case back to home county if venue vanishes.

  • Raises the standard in cases against hospital emergency rooms and ER doctors to "gross negligence".

  • Limits liability for non-economic damages in med-mal cases to $350,000 per provider ($1,050,000 total).

  • Allows healthcare providers to offer statements of apology and sympathy without threat of statement being used against them in court.

  • The bill contains a severability clause so that if one or more sections of the bill is ruled unconstitutional, it will not void all other provisions of the bill.

Glenn Richardson

Speaker, Georgia House of Representatives

 

George Israel

Chamber President 

Enacting Civil Justice Reform: Lessons Learned From Georgia

In this feature, Todd Young, Policy Director of The Southeastern Legal Foundation and President of DecisionMakers, Inc. provides an insider's view of how legal reform in Georgia, long thought impossible, became a reality in February.  Written especially for our website, this provides very valuable insights about steps the pro-reform advocates should take to prepare their case, build coalitions and get beyond short-sighted bickering to win a legislative campaign for legal reform.  Read Article
   

 

If you know of or have authored an article or report that deserves recognition among corporate and public policy leaders, please send an email to LegalReform@lawexec.com.  Original material © 2005 Center for America.

 

 

 Legal Reform Partners and Resources in Georgia

 

Georgia Chamber

 

Resources

 

State Government Profile

 

State Tort Law Profile

 

Governor's Website

 

Senate Website

 

House Website

 

Attorney General Website