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Georgia’s Medical Malpractice Cap Law is Unconstitutional

Posted By Regan Zambri & Long || 16-Sep-2009

Posted by: Salvatore J. Zambri, Esquire

The highest court in the state of Georgia will determine whether a 2005 law that capped medical malpractice awards violates the state’s constitution.

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution (9/16, Rankin) reports that a 75-year-old Marietta, Georgia, woman was "permanently disfigured" after complications from facial surgery.  The report also notes that the woman’s "case is now before the Georgia Supreme Court, which on Tuesday considered for the first time the constitutionality of the centerpiece of the state’s sweeping 2005 tort reform law – caps on jury awards in medical malpractice cases." The article indicates that the surgeon’s attorneys argued that the "Legislature properly imposed the caps to keep doctors from leaving the state in droves because their malpractice insurance premiums were too high," while the attorney for the plaintiff argued that "the law punishes those who suffer the greatest malpractice injuries to the benefit of those who caused the most harm."

The AP (9/15, Walker) reports that Georgia state law caps damages in medical malpractice lawsuits at $350,000, and that the case centers on a Georgia tort "reform" law that arbitrarily caps the amount a jury can award for malpractice victims’ pain and suffering.  According to this report, the plaintiff’s attorneys "said the law overturns a jury’s centuries-old right to determine how much to compensate a victim."

The Atlanta Business Chronicle (9/16, Williams) adds that the woman’s lawyer told the court that "The liability cap was a key provision in a tort reform bill Republicans made their top priority after taking full control of the legislature in the 2004 elections for the first time since the 19th century. Lawmakers in Georgia and other states have embraced restrictions on jury awards as a way to curb rising medical malpractice insurance premiums that have long been a chief source of complaint among doctors. Despite the cap, a Fulton County jury awarded $1,265,000 to Betty Nestlehutt, 71, in 2007 after she was left with permanent scars and discoloration from a facelift that went wrong."

The truth of the matter is that there is a medical malpractice crisis in this country.  The myths are that there are too many cases and that lawsuits are the cause of high insurance premiums doctors must pay.  Nearly 100,000 people die every year as a result of medical errors, and 90% of the victims of medical errors never bring a suit.  We need better medical care.  Also, the number of suits throughout  the country have gone done, as have payouts by insurers, yet the insures have been raising premiums.  We need better insurance regulation.

The District of Columbia government has enacted insurance reform recently, and its impact has been already felt.  We hope other states follow the District’s lead.

Those that are catastrophically injured due to medical wrongdoing need help.  They should not be victims twice–once by egregious medical care and again by artificial caps that prohibit victims from obtaining justice.

 

About the author:

Mr. Zambri has been rated by Washingtonian magazine as a "Big Gun" and among the "top 1%" of all lawyers in the Washington metropolitan area.  The magazine also describes him as "one of Washington’s best–most honest and effective lawyers" who specializes in personal injury matters, including medical malpractice actions.   He has also been named a "DC Super Lawyer" by Super Lawyer magazine (March/April 2009)–a national publication that honors the top lawyers in America.  If you need a patient advocate, we recommend that you read an article about medical malpractice claims authored by senior partner Salvatore Zambri.

If you want more information about your legal rights, please email Mr. Zambri at szambri@reganfirm.com or call him at 202-822-1899.

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