Georgia SC Throws Out $350,000 Cap on Noneconomic Damages in Medical Malpractice Claims
It’s been a while coming, but the much-awaited judgment that trial lawyers in Atlanta and victims of medical malpractice have been waiting for, is finally here. The Georgia Supreme Court yesterday threw out the $350,000 cap on noneconomic damages in medical malpractice claims.. The ruling nullifies a key provision of tort reform laws passed by Georgia’s legislators in 2005.
The 7-0 Supreme Court decision involves the case of Betty Nestlehutt, who suffered severe disfigurement after a botched plastic surgery procedure. Nestlehutt had visited Atlanta Oculoplastic Surgery to correct bags around her eyes. The resulting procedure left wounds on her cheeks, which have since resulted in permanent scarring.
Nestlehutt sued the hospital, and was awarded $1.15 million in non-economic damages. This included $900,000, awarded in damages for pain and suffering. Atlanta Oculoplastic Surgery appealed the decision, saying the cap did not allow such damages. A Fulton County court held that the medical malpractice cap imposed in 2005 was unconstitutional. The case went to the Georgia Supreme Court which has now removed the cap. The decision also applies retroactively to pending cases that are still waiting on appeal.
As expected, the Medical Association of Georgia has expressed its disappointment at the verdict calling it “unacceptable.” As Georgia medical malpractice lawyers, we have hoped for a verdict like this.Arbitrary legislation by vote-seeking lawmakers has been defeated by our state’s highest court.