Split decision in Supreme Court on tort reform venue provisions
Today the Georgia Supreme Court struck down one venue provision of last year’s tort reform legislation, but upheld another one.
The Court unanimously affirmed Judge J. Antonio DelCampo of DeKalb County State Court, who in March ruled unconstitutional the section of last year’s tort reform legislation requiring judges to transfer a case to a medical malpractice defendant’s home county, upon the defendant’s request, if the event that prompted the suit occurred in that county. ECHA Cartersville v. Turner, No. S05A1560 (Sup. Ct. Ga. Feb. 13, 2006). The ruling restores the old rule �- in which plaintiffs chose the venue if there were several co-defendants. The decision, written by Chief Justice Leah Ward Sears, found that the venue transfer provision violated a subsection of the Georgia Constitution stating that suits against several co-defendants residing in different counties “may be tried in either county.”
In a second case, the Supreme Court affirmed a ruling by then-Fulton County State Court Judge Craig L. Schwall (now on Superior Court) rejecting a constitutional challenge to the provision that allows judges to transfer a case to a different county if the court determines that “the interest of justice” and “the convenience of the parties” warrant transfer, a concept commonly known as “forum non conveniens.” Writing for the court, Sears reasoned that the Georgia Constitution gives the courts power to change venue, so the forum non conveniens provision is constitutional. Garland v. Earle, No. No. S05A2066 (Sup. Ct. Ga. Feb. 13, 2006).
Justice Harold D. Melton, who was Gov. Sonny Perdue’s executive counsel when the governor signed the tort reform legislatoin into law, recused himself in these cases. Judge Daniel M. Coursey Jr. of DeKalb County Superior Court sat by designation in his place.
The Shigley Law Firm represents plaintiffs in wrongful death and catastrophic injury cases statewide in Georgia, and in other states subject to the multijurisdictional practice and pro hac vice rules in each state. 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, semi truck wrecks,18 wheeler truck wrecks, big rig truck wrecks, log truck wrecks, dump truck wrecks).