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Non-Economic Damage Caps in Georgia

GEORGIA SUPREME COURT STRIKES DOWN DAMAGE CAPS

In a unanimous decision, the conservative Supreme Court of Georgia ruled on March 22, 2010 that the legislature's passage of a $350,000 damage cap on non-economic damages in medical malpractice cases violates the state constitution's guarantee of a jury trial. The law was passed by the Georgia legislature in 2005 as part of its so-called "tort reform" effort. Non-economic damages refer to claims for things like pain and suffering, emotional distress, loss of enjoyment of life, and, in wrongful death cases, grief and loss of companionship. In its decision, the court said that the right to a jury trial encompasses the right to have a jury determine the amount that should be awarded in damages.

While this is excellent news for the victims of malpractice in Georgia, the court's decision unfortunately has no application in Colorado, where the legislature has limited non-economic damages to just $300,000 in medical malpractice cases. The Colorado Supreme Court, unlike its Georgia counterpart, has refused to strike down the Colorado damage cap provision.

Keith CrossJoe Bennett
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