Tort Reform: A blow to doctors in the Peach State

June 6, 2008

Georgia's $350,000 cap on noneconomic damages in malpractice cases gives doctors special protections that other professions don't enjoy, and is therefore unconstitutional.

Georgia's $350,000 cap on noneconomic damages in malpractice cases gives doctors special protections that other professions don't enjoy, and is therefore unconstitutional, said a Fulton County judge. The case in question involved a man who fell from a ladder at his home and later claimed his doctors missed significant damage to his neck and spine, which led to his becoming a quadriplegic. Superior Court Judge Marvin Arrington wrote that by limiting the amount patients can recover for pain and suffering, the cap favors wealthy plaintiffs who can prove greater economic damages (i.e., the loss of a sizable income). The case hasn't gone to trial yet, but if the defendants appeal Judge Arrington's declaratory judgment, it may be up to the state Supreme Court to decide if the cap is constitutional. The Medical Association of Georgia said it was "disappointed" by the ruling and that it "jeopardizes access to healthcare for patients in the state."