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Malpractice Cap Repeal Reaction
Tuesday, 23 March 2010

March 23--  A day after the U.S. House of Representatives passed sweeping new healthcare legislation in Washington, the Georgia Supreme Court threw out a key provision of a 2005 Georgia tort reform law regarding medical malpractice.

In an unanimous ruling, the state justices struck down the state law which set a $350,000 limit on jury awards for pain and suffering in medical malpractice lawsuits.

Vidalia attorney Wilson Smith publicly criticized lawmakers five years ago when they passed the bill and Tuesday expressed satisfaction on its reversal.  "I think it's a great day for justice in Georgia.  It's not a matter of lawyers, it's a matter of injured people and what's fair and the Supreme Court made a very wise decision in accordance with the law," he said.

State Senator Tommie Williams of Lyons voted for the law in 2005 and says the court's decision will mean even higher healthcare costs in Georgia.  "The problem we're going to face is just higher premiums that doctors and hospitals are going to have to pay for medical malpractice insurance.  They made it retroactive to five years ago so all those cases that were in court at $350,000 caps are now unlimited," he observed.

Attorney Smith says it's unclear as to how the retroactivity will work.  "I don't know exactly how that will work.  I think it's a proper decision, but some things have been gone and are past and I don't know exactly how that mechanism will go," he said.

Meanwhile, Senator Williams notes Republicans in Congress tried to get some type of tort reform in the healthcare bill to hold down costs but were unsuccessful.  He says the only alternative left to state lawmakers is an amendment to the state constitution which he doubts will happen.

"It's probably not possible to get the required super-majority of votes  in the House or the Senate right now to pull it off," he says.

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