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Georgia Governor Purdue’s Tort Reform Express Losing Steam?

It looks like Governor Sonny Purdue’s plans for tort reform in Georgia have hit the speed breakers sooner than he had anticipated.On March 10th, the senate approved a substantially tamer version of a bill that would have made plaintiffs pay in the case of a losing lawsuit. The original bill had language approved by Governor Purdue, and would have made the state only the second in the country to make plaintiffs responsible for defendant’s legal fees if a lawsuit was dismissed in the early stages. That “loser pays” language has fortunately been deleted from the bill that has now been approved.

It’s not just the removal of the “loser pays” clause from his pet bill that must be giving the honorable governor heartburn.Earlier in 2009, another tort reform bill, this one too a pet project of Mr. Purdue died an early death in the Senate Economic Development Committee.This one related to the granting of civil lawsuit immunity to biotechnology companies who set up shop in Georgia.The governor announced at a meeting of the Georgia Chamber of Commerce earlier this year that biotechnology companies who wanted to invest in the state would be granted civil immunity from lawsuits in the event of an injury, if their products had been approved by the Food and Drug Administration.That bill, which had been soundly criticized by citizens’ justice advocates and Georgia personal injury attorneys as being detrimental to consumer interests, seems well and truly dead, and deservedly so.To contemplate removing citizens’ rights to justice and compensation in the event of an injury caused by a pharmaceutical drug or product simply because the drug has FDA approval, is a line of thinking that has just been quashed by the Supreme Court in its recent Wyeth vs. Levine verdict.

Purdue’s insistence that such immunity would open the doors of investment and prosperity to Georgians also rings hollow when you consider that Michigan, which is currently the only state that has such civil lawsuit immunity for pharmaceutical companies, has seen both civil justice and pharmaceutical investment fly out the window, since the bill was passed in that state.To pass a bill like the immunity bill that Purdue was touting, and that too during a recession when citizens need more protection from powerful interests than ever before, would have been a mockery of citizens’ rights.