A new Senate Bill, introduced by state Senator Brandon Beach (R-Alpharetta), seeks to dramatically overhaul the current medical malpractice system in the state.

The bill is the latest in a series of attempts to establish an administrative system to handle medical malpractice cases. A past effort to address the state’s malpractice system failed as recently as last year.

This year’s bill, SB 86, was named “The Patient Compensation Act” by its sponsor. The bill seeks to create an administrative system where patients are compensated for medical injuries by a Patient Compensation Board rather than in court.

The Patient Compensation Act would limit how much a victim of medical malpractice could collect, and would force health-care practitioners to pay into an administrative fund to pay for the awards. The bill provides for review by an administrative law judge when necessary.

Proponents of the bill believe it will lower overall medical costs by reducing the practice of defensive medicine by health-care practitioners, as well as reducing the cost of malpractice insurance. Supporters of SB 86 argue that changing to an administrative system would avoid the typical long and costly jury trials associated with medical malpractice cases.

Opponents of the bill have been quick to respond. The Georgia Trial Lawyers Association issued a statement from its president, Lindley Jones, stating that “replacing the time-tested civil jury system with a taxpayer-funded bureaucratic government agency would be an egregious infringement on Georgia citizens’ constitutional rights, and I strongly believe that Senate Bill 86 would be held unconstitutional if it were to come before the Georgia Supreme Court.” 

Jones went on to say that the bill “eliminates all current procedural safeguards, legitimate accountability mechanisms and meaningful appeals processes that are the cornerstones of the civil justice system, and I urge our lawmakers to reject this unconstitutional proposal outright.”

The full text of SB 86 is available here: http://www.legis.ga.gov/Legislation/en-US/display/20152016/SB/86

Ann Latner, JD, a former criminal defense attorney, is a freelance medical writer in Port Washington, N.Y.

References

  1. Torres K. (2015). Medical malpractice overhaul back at the Georgia Legislature. Atlanta Journal Constitution. Retrieved from http://www.ajc.com/news/news/state-regional-govt-politics/medical-malpractice-overhaul-back-at-the-georgia-l/nj7L7/
  2. Richards J. (2015). 2015 Patient Compensation Act introduced in the Senate. Peach Pundit. Retrieved from http://www.peachpundit.com/2015/02/09/2015-patient-compensation-act-introduced-senate/

All electronic resources were accessed on February 20, 2015.