Tort reform in Georgia is long overdue

A conservative activist says it's time to rein in out-of-control lawsuits that clog the courts. (Brian A. Jackson/South Florida Sun Sentinel)

Credit: TNS

Credit: TNS

A conservative activist says it's time to rein in out-of-control lawsuits that clog the courts. (Brian A. Jackson/South Florida Sun Sentinel)

Georgia is a great state to do business and raise a family. From the beauty of its landscapes to the richness of its natural resources, we are blessed to call Georgia home.

However, there is an issue that continues to endanger the quality of the life we enjoy – an issue that comes with doubts that our legal system protects us all. A barrier to attracting and keeping businesses that provide jobs to our citizens and revenue to our economy. A danger to being able to afford to live the American dream. That issue is out-of-control lawsuits and their impact on our way of life.

Julianne Thompson

Credit: Contributed

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Credit: Contributed

According to its website, the American Tort Reform Association Foundation annually publishes a report “focusing on jurisdictions where courts have been radically out of balance”. In the most recent report for 2023, ATRA has listed Georgia as the #1 Judicial Hellhole in America, surpassing even California.

In a 2023 article from R Street Institute, a conservative and libertarian think tank, state policy director Marc Hyden points out that if lawsuit abuse in Georgia is not fixed, it amounts to another tax on consumers – referring to the financial toll frivolous lawsuits have on businesses and how that hurts consumers who then face higher costs as a result. Yet, despite these alarming facts, Hyden states, “Even the most common-sense reforms have gone down in dramatic flames in the Georgia General Assembly.”

The purpose of our judicial system is to balance the scales of justice — to solve legitimate grievances and hold those who are guilty responsible. There are wonderful attorneys who represent real victims who deserve their day in court. The passion that most of us feel on this issue centers around the fact that there are legitimate cases out there, and every time a frivolous lawsuit is brought forward, it clogs the court system forcing delays for those cases that should be heard in a timely manner.

People are suffering because it can take years to get their case to court and damages awarded could be considerably less that what they are worth because juries have been hardened by the large number of senseless cases they have to hear.

There does seem to be hope on the horizon for 2024. The General Assembly appears to be taking up legislation dealing with landowners’ liability. There has been an alarming trend in lawsuits punishing landowners when criminals commit crimes on their property. When Georgia’s homeowners and businesses exercise reasonable care to keep their properties safe, they should not be held responsible for the actions of trespassers and criminals. The General Assembly can fix this. For Georgia businesses, especially small businesses, as well as homeowners, this is very good news.

Julianne Thompson is co-founder of the Capitol Coalition of Conservative Leaders, a statewide coalition of conservative leaders and activists.

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