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GOVERNOR MULLS TORT REFORM AGAIN

Governor Sonny Purdue is at it again – he has proposed legislation aimed at reducing the number of "frivolous" lawsuits," including measures that are clearly aimed at making it harder for plaintiffs to initiate civil litigation against companies.Purdue’s proposals, which he unveiled at a breakfast meeting of the Georgia Chamber of Commerce, will mean that plaintiffs have to pay the legal fees of the defendant, in case the lawsuit is dismissed at the earliest stages.Even more disturbing, the legislation will virtually grant immunity to biotechnology companies who have a "significant presence" in the state.That’s political speak for giving big name pharmaceutical companies carte blanche, without the drag of accountability to the consumer. Under the proposed laws, a citizen of Georgia cannot sue a company for a defective or dangerous medical device or drug that has received approval of the FDA.

Purdue’s proposals, not surprisingly were cheered by the 2500 members of the Chamber at the meeting.The initiatives, the Governor believes, will make the state "even more attractive" to biotechnology companies.The last time Georgia attempted to introduce tort reform in medical malpractice, the resulting storm was intense.That move resulted in senate Bill 3, which severely limits the amount of compensation thata patient who has been injured due to the fault of doctors, or hospitals to $350,000 even in the event of death of the patient due to negligence.Many of the provisions of the Georgia Tort Reform Act of 2005 have been removed as violations of a citizen’s constitutional rights.That doesn’t seem to have deterred Purdue, who this time around, intends to protect the pharmaceutical industry. Needless to say, the Georgia Trial Lawyers Association has already voiced strong opposition to any such new legislation.

As we’ve seen last week in Minnesota, where a judge has thrown out dozens of lawsuits relating to the Medtronic defibrillator leads, device or drug approval from the FDA cannot and shouldn’t be allowed to come in the way of a person’s right to sue if these approved devices result in injuries.The Sprint Fidelis leads were approved by the FDA, and yet, have caused several deaths and heart injuries, because of fractures or broken wires that caused the defibrillator to malfunction.Now, dozens of injured patients or families of those who died have had their lawsuits dismissed, and their hopes for justice becoming bleaker because of the pre emption doctrine.

As Georgia personal injury attorneys, we need to take more steps to help the public understand how these legislations will affect them in the event of a medical injury. If Purdue’s proposals are passed, citizens lose the one line of defense protecting them from a pharmaceutical company’s negligence – the option for civil litigation.If getting these pharma big boys to invest in Georgia is the target, then there are ways to accomplish that without placing citizens’ constitutional rights in jeopardy.