Georgia Tort Laws Overview

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Kimberly Ramseur

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Statute of Limitations: Patients have two years from the date of patient injury or death to file a claim. § 9-3-71(a)

Statute of Repose:  A patient plaintiff has up to five years to take action regarding medical malpractice after a wrongful act/omission. § 9-3-71(b)

Pre-judgment Interest: Pre-judgment interest not allowed unless defendant rejects a formal pre-trial demand by claimant and judgment is equal to or greater than demand. § 51-12-14

Expert Testimony: A physician defendant must have competent expert affidavit stating factual basis for at least one negligent act or omission necessary. § 9-11-9.1

Damage Caps: The Georgia Supreme Court rejected the compensatory damages cap as unconstitutional. See, Atlanta Oculoplastic Surgery, P.C. v. Nestlehutt, 2010 WL 1004996 (Ga. March 22, 2010). Punitive damages are allowed only for acts deemed “willful misconduct” or “conscious indifference.” Except for intentional harm, punitive damages capped are at $250,000. § 51-12-5.1(g)

Arbitration: Arbitration is allowed instead of a trial if agreed upon by both parties and petitioned to superior court. § 9-9-62

Medical Malpractice Screening Panel: No panels. Arbitration is only alternative form of dispute resolution available in Georgia.

Contributory or Comparative Negligence: No award of damages or recovery by plaintiff if plaintiff is greater than 50 percent responsible for injury claimed. If plaintiff is less than 50 percent responsible - damages are reduced by the percent of fault. § 51-12-33(a)&(g)

Joint and Several Liability: No joint liability. Damages are apportioned based upon percent of fault (non-parties fault must be considered). § 51-12-33

Vicarious Liability: Hospitals are not liable unless actual agency or employment relationship exists. § 51-2-5.1

Contributions: No right of contribution available. May be asserted as cross-claim in underlying action or brought as a separate lawsuit. § 51-12-33. See, Greenhorne & O’Mara, Inc. v. City of Atlanta, 679 S.E.2d 818 (Ga. Ct. App. 2009)

Attorney Fees: No limitation

Periodic Payments: At request of any party, physician’s annuity policy may pay future damages of more than $350,000 with cost equal to the amount of the award for future damages. § 51-13-1(f)

Collateral Source Rule: Damages cannot be reduced by benefits paid from anyone other than the negligent party.

Patient Compensation & Physician Insurance: None

Immunities: No sovereign immunity for torts of state officers & employees acting within scope of their official duties or employment, subject to certain exceptions and limitations. § 50-21-23