Free Consultation

Office Locations

The Cochran Firm Legal Blog

With Office Locations Nationwide

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Georgia Supreme Court Overturns Medical Malpractice Damage Cap

Yesterday the Georgia Supreme Court upheld an appellate court decision declaring a legislative cap on noneconomic damages in medical malpractice lawsuits to be unconstitutional. The 2005 law, part of a sweeping tort-reform initiative, declared that a person could not receive more than $350,000 in noneconomic damages, including: "damages for physical and emotional pain, discomfort, anxiety, hardship, distress, suffering, inconvenience, physical impairment, mental anguish, disfigurement, loss of enjoyment of life, loss of society and companionship, loss of consortium, injury to reputation, and all other nonpecuniary losses of any kind or nature." The specific case involved a woman who suffered infections after a facelift operation, resulting in a long, painful recovery and permanent disfigurement. After a jury trial, she was awarded $1.265 million, which included $1.15 million in noneconomic damages. The lawyers for her facial plastic surgeon said the award should be reduced down to $465,000: $350,000 in noneconomic damages, plus $115,000 in medical expenses.

But the Georgia Supreme Court decided that the original judgment should stand, deciding that the cap on damages was unconstitutional because it infringed on the judicial branch's constitutionally-guaranteed powers. Relying on authorities that predated the Georgia State Constitution, but were cited by the Constitution, including British Common Law, the Supreme Court unanimously decided that the right to a jury trial included the right to have damages determined by that jury. Since both economic and noneconomic damages are considered findings of fact, the Court decided that noneconomic damage caps infringed on the jury's privilege of delivering its verdict. It contrasted these against punitive damages, which are not considered findings of fact.

Noneconomic damage caps are a common form of tort reform, having been implemented in about two-dozen states. In Illinois, last year that state's Supreme Court declared its cap on damages to be unconstitutional, and in many other states the caps continue to face constitutional challenges. For example, read about the challenge to Kansas' noneconomic damage cap, which has yet to be decided.

If you have been hurt by a doctor's negligence in Georgia, the Supreme Court has restored your right to have all your injuries compensated, and the lawyers at the Atlanta, Georgia office of The Cochran Firm stand ready to help you pursue your right. Please contact us today for a free case evaluation.

Labels: ,

posted by Benjamin A. Irwin at 9:24 AM

1.800.THE FIRM | 1.800.843.3476

The Cochran Firm handles Civil Litigation and Criminal Defense claims for clients throughout the United States of America. The information on this website does not constitute legal advice nor form an attorney-client relationship.Please contact The Cochran Firm today to schedule a free consultation.

Site Design, Development and Optimization by Page 1 Solutions | © - | Disclaimer