Tort reform law challenged in Georgia

The state Supreme Court will decide if a law raising burden of proof in emergency care lawsuits is constitutional. Doctors say reversal would hurt access.

By Amy Lynn Sorrel — Posted Nov. 4, 2009

Print  |   Email  |   Respond  |   Reprints  |   Like Facebook  |   Share Twitter  |   Tweet Linkedin

Emergency care in Georgia will suffer if a tort reform measure about medical liability lawsuits concerning emergency care is not upheld.

That's according to a friend-of-the-court brief the Medical Assn. of Georgia and the Litigation Center of the American Medical Association and State Medical Societies filed in a case pending before the Georgia Supreme Court (link).

The state's high court will determine the constitutionality of the 2005 reform measure, which mandated a higher burden of proof in such lawsuits. Plaintiffs must prove by a standard of clear and convincing evidence that a physician committed gross negligence. Oral arguments in Gliemmo v. Cousineau began Oct. 6.

Physicians credit the statute with lowering their professional liability insurance costs and keeping emergency doctors in practice. They say the Legislature has a legitimate right to address such access concerns as a matter of public policy.

Trial lawyers, meanwhile, contend that the law gives preferential treatment to emergency physicians, and the higher standard precludes legitimate claims from making it to court.

A trial court had rejected those arguments, however, when it turned down a request by the plaintiffs to declare the statute an unconstitutional special law. The case was appealed directly to the state Supreme Court. It is unclear when that court will rule.

Meanwhile, justices also are considering another provision of the 2005 reform statute in a separate case testing the constitutionality of the state's $350,000 cap on noneconomic damages.

Oral arguments in Atlanta Oculoplastic Surgery v. Nestlehutt were heard Sept. 15. MAG and the AMA Litigation Center also filed a brief in the case urging the court to uphold the cap (link).

Back to top



Read story

Confronting bias against obese patients

Medical educators are starting to raise awareness about how weight-related stigma can impair patient-physician communication and the treatment of obesity. Read story

Read story


American Medical News is ceasing publication after 55 years of serving physicians by keeping them informed of their rapidly changing profession. Read story

Read story

Policing medical practice employees after work

Doctors can try to regulate staff actions outside the office, but they must watch what they try to stamp out and how they do it. Read story

Read story

Diabetes prevention: Set on a course for lifestyle change

The YMCA's evidence-based program is helping prediabetic patients eat right, get active and lose weight. Read story

Read story

Medicaid's muddled preventive care picture

The health system reform law promises no-cost coverage of a lengthy list of screenings and other prevention services, but some beneficiaries still might miss out. Read story

Read story

How to get tax breaks for your medical practice

Federal, state and local governments offer doctors incentives because practices are recognized as economic engines. But physicians must know how and where to find them. Read story

Read story

Advance pay ACOs: A down payment on Medicare's future

Accountable care organizations that pay doctors up-front bring practice improvements, but it's unclear yet if program actuaries will see a return on investment. Read story

Read story

Physician liability: Your team, your legal risk

When health care team members drop the ball, it's often doctors who end up in court. How can physicians improve such care and avoid risks? Read story

  • Stay informed
  • Twitter
  • Facebook
  • RSS
  • LinkedIn