Georgia judge strikes down cap on medical malpractice suits

Fulton County Superior Court Judge Marvin Arrington ruled recently that Georgia’s $350,000 cap on noneconomic damages in medical malpractice suits is unconstitutional, finding that it gives special protections to the medical profession.

“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 judge made this ruling in a medical negligence case which has yet to go to trial, so the impact of his decision is unclear at this point. The plaintiffs will have to be successful and the defendant will have to appeal (and lose) in order to create precedent; otherwise, it’s just a point to argue in other cases.

Apparently, Judge Arrington has made some controversial rulings in the past and has been reversed by the Georgia Supreme Court on some of them. Nonetheless, I applaud his courage for speaking out against the injustice he sees first-hand in his courtroom.

The cap on noneconomic damages in Texas, by the way, is $250,000. And don’t give me that crap about “stacking” two or three limits (for a $500,000 or $750,000 cap). Those scenarios were pitched by the insurance lobby when they rammed tort reform through the pliant Texas Legislature in 2003 but they have no basis in reality. You and your family are worth $250,000 if you get malpracticed on in Texas these days.

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