Atlanta trial judge holds medical malpractice damages cap unconstitutional
In Atlanta, Superior Court Judge Marvin Arrington issued an order on Wednesday that the legislative cap of $350,000 for noneconomic damages such as pain and suffering is unconstitutional because it gave special protections to the medical profession. This meant people injured by doctors had less protection than those injured by any other cause.
The cause arose out of the failure of doctors at the hospital in my hometown, Douglasville, to diagnose a broken neck, resulting is the patient becoming a quadriplegic.
Judge Arrington ruled that limiting the caps meant that in many cases, large jury awards would be issued only to would be issued only to wealthy people who could point to the loss of large incomes. "The statute effectively puts substantial limitations on the rights of the poor and middle class to recovery while leaving the right to virtually unlimited recoveries unimpeded for the wealthy," Arrington said. "The disabled manager of a hedge fund, a corporate CEO, an entertainer or such other person whose income is in the tens of millions of dollars has a claim under Georgia law that would dwarf the amount awarded in any case for pain and suffering."
The Medical Association of Georgia placed primary importance on the damages cap as the centerpiece of its tort "reform" legislation in 2005. I expect this ruling will stir the political pot again, putting renewed pressure on the Georgia Supreme Court. My hunch, for better or worse, is that even though several other state supreme courts have held such damages caps unconstitutional, Judge Arrington’s ruling may be reversed in the Georgia Supreme Court.
The Shigley Law Firm represents plaintiffs in wrongful death and catastrophic injury cases statewide in Georgia. Ken Shigley was designated as a "SuperLawyer" in Atlanta Magazine and one of the "Legal Elite" in Georgia Trend Magazine. He is a Certified Civil Trial Advocate of the National Board of Trial Advocacy, Chair of the Southeastern Motor Carrier Liability Institute and former chair of the Georgia Insurance Law Institute. He particularly focuses on cases arising from truck wrecks and accidents (tractor trailers truck wrecks, bus wrecks, semi truck wrecks,18 wheeler truck wrecks, big rig truck wrecks, log truck wrecks, dump truck wrecks.