Judge finds Georgia's malpractice caps unconstitutional - WALB.com, South Georgia News, Weather, Sports

Judge finds Georgia's malpractice caps unconstitutional

May 2, 2008

Albany-  An Atlanta judge says a Georgia law that limits medical malpractice damages in some cases is unfair to the poor and middle class. He says the law needs to be tossed out.

The General Assembly set the limits on damages for pain and suffering three years ago. Since then attorneys say fewer medical malpractice suits have been filed. Doctors claim the judge's ruling could force patients to pay more for health care.

Three years ago, the General Assembly put a limit on pain and suffering damages that can be awarded to medical malpractice plaintiffs. Now Fulton County Judge Marvin Arrington says that's unconstitutional. In a nutshell, his ruling says the law puts tougher restrictions on the damages a poor or middle class medical victim can collect.

"We don't have caps generally on other types of cases, so it's really a public policy question," said Attorney Paul Phillips of Flynn, Peeler, and Phillips.

The Medical Association of Georgia is disappointed and doctors say, it won't just affect them.

"Everyone that works, pays taxes, buys insurance, contributes, and lives a life of integrity and honor, they suffer," said Dr. Scott McGee, Premier orthopedics, PC.

If the ruling stands, doctors say medical malpractice insurance will go up, and it could mean some doctors increase fees or leave the state.

"I'm certain we will," said McGee.

The ruling will likely be appealed, leaving patients and doctors with more questions than answers over what this ruling could ultimately mean.

"It's hard to say. First of all this is a trial court ruling, so it will be appealed and go through the appellate process here in Georgia," said Phillips.

The answer may be to look back to 2005 before the caps were put on, when attorneys say more medical malpractice cases were being filed. The Caps limit non-economic damages to $350,00 for one provider and $700,000 for multi-defendant cases.

There's no word on how quickly an appeal may be filed or how soon the Supreme Court of Georgia might consider the case.

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