Kemp calls for ‘even playing field’ in state’s civil litigation laws

Georgia’s tort laws rank among the harshest in the nation
Tort covers civil litigation in areas including medical malpractice, accidents, and contracts. It hasn’t been legislatively addressed in Georgia since 2004.
Published: Aug. 8, 2023 at 7:15 PM EDT
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ATHENS, Ga. (Atlanta News First) - Top Georgia officials made it abundantly clear on Tuesday that their legislative priorities in 2024 will include an overhaul of the state’s tort laws.

Tort covers civil litigation in areas including medical malpractice, accidents and contracts. It hasn’t been legislatively addressed in Georgia since 2004.

Speaking to a large crowd at the Georgia Chamber of Commerce’s Congressional Luncheon on Tuesday, Gov. Brian Kemp referred back to his time as a small business owner in Athens, where the conference was hosted, and on how the threat of litigation made it difficult to comfortably do business in the Peach State.

“The laws on our books make it too easy to bring frivolous lawsuits against Georgia business owners,” said Kemp. “Our judicial system should not favor one party over the other. Our laws should not put their thumb on the scale for the accused or the accuser. And our business environment should help businesses start, operate, and grow. Not incentivize higher prices, smaller payrolls, and more red tape.”

“The results from these regulations and laws are not hypothetical. Georgians are paying some of the highest car insurance prices in the country. Local trucking companies either can’t afford the insurance they’re offered or can’t find a carrier altogether, and business owners live in fear of being sued for ridiculous claims on their property. This is unacceptable.”

Georgia Insurance Commissioner John King agreed with Kemp and noted the threat of facing expensive litigation is also driving doctors away from Georgia. King said premiums are just being driven too high with the amount of frivolous lawsuits pushing up the costs.

“Young doctors graduating from college who want to start a practice, but they have to buy a policy for $100,000 for the first year of practice. It’s crushing them,” said King. “Small businesses right now are terrified of this environment that if they do anything wrong, they’re automatically going to have a whole bunch of lawyers pouncing on them.”

Georgia has gained a reputation for having harsh tort laws. Georgia was included as a “judicial hellhole” for the first time in the American Tort Reform Foundation’s 2019-20 annual report, ranked as the No. 6 Judicial Hellhole in the nation.

Legislators had tried to address it last legislative session, but their bills fell short of passage in the state Senate.

Democrats, meanwhile, like Senator Jon Ossoff, who also spoke at Tuesday’s luncheon, argue the victims of wrongdoing and malpractice should be able to seek the full amount owed to them in the event of an accident.