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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.

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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.

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The Tort Reform Act of 2005 may be going up on appeal. In 2005 Georgia legislators saw fit to pass a Tort Reform Act that, among other things, gave emergency room doctors virtual immunity from negligence suits.

That bill provided that the ER staff cannot be held liable for damages unless it is shown by clear and convincing evidence that the doctor or health care provider’s actions showed “gross negligence.”Gross negligence is defined as the absence of that degree of care that every man of common sense, however inattentive he may be, exercises under the same or similar circumstances.Another common definition of “gross negligence” is “reckless disregard for the safety of the patient.”

In addition to this standard of care change, pain and suffering damages in a medical malpractice case were capped at $350,000.Thus, if you are injured as a result of medical malpractice, your right to recover has been greatly diminished.

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