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Georgia Governor Proposes Tort Reform-A Bad Deal for Georgia Citizens

As reported previously at this site, ‘tort reform’ legislation, especially a “free pass” for the drug industry, is a bad idea for United States citizens. Usually, these types of reforms are proposed at the behest of “big business” or “big pharmaceutical” using the national, state or local Chambers of Commerce as an introductory vehicle. The suggestion is, usually, that “tort reform” is good for “business”. While it certainly may assist big business in making higher profits, clearly, it does so by putting the safety and constitutional rights of individual citizens in peril.

In two separate posts at this site, August 15, 2008, “Doctors Agree That Lawsuits Ensure Drug Safety Far Better than the FDA” and October 29, 2008, “Drug Company Immunity-A Bad Deal for U.S. Citizens”, I have lamented that Michigan, my state, is the only state in the union that provides absolute immunity for manufacturers of FDA approved drugs. The legislation that created this abomination, additional justice-restricting measures, and a number of anti-justice judicial appointments by a three-term Republican governor have combined to do significant and irreparable damage to a vast number of innocent and disabled Michigan citizens and taxpayers.

With the Michigan experience as a background, I am sad to report that, in an article in the Columbus (Georgia) Ledger-Inquirer dated January 13, 2009, Associated Press Reporter Greg Bluestein reports that similar legislation is now being proposed in Georgia by Governor Sonny Perdue. The legislation would make Georgia the second state in the union to provide absolute immunity to FDA approved drugs.

As is typical with this type of proposal, it claims to have the politically correct aim of reducing what the governor calls “frivolous” lawsuits. The measure would hold plaintiffs responsible for corporate defendants’ attorney fees if their lawsuits are dismissed “early in the process”. There are two obvious problems with this standard: 1. Just because a judge (perhaps, with a political agenda) dismisses a case it does not follow that it was “frivolous” and 2. It would have a chilling effect on the institution of serious litigation because of the fear that a judge with a political agenda would dismiss the litigation and assess attorney fees.

Further, as always, reducing “frivolous lawsuit” filings is never the agenda of tort reformers. The true agenda is to reduce the filing of serious lawsuits and the amount big business and big insurance are required to pay the victims. That is why these proposals have a Michigan-like drug company immunity (if litigated drug has received FDA approval). Whether the drug kills, maims or injures is not the standard; the manufacturer only needs to show that its very dangerous and defective product received FDA approval to avoid liability. This is, apparently, what the former Michigan governor and, now, Georgia Governor Perdue mean when utilizing the term “meritless litigation”. By the way, Perdue rolled out his ‘plan’ at the annual Georgia Chamber of Commerce breakfast in front of 2,500 business owners and Chamber members. “With the help of the General Assembly, we’ll make plain that the threat of ‘meritless litigation’ is not a viable business strategy in Georgia,” said the Governor.

Thankfully, Georgia citizens can rely on the Georgia Trial Lawyers Association, the state association of lawyers who represent ‘citizens’ or ‘plaintiff’s’ in litigation, to fight these proposals on behalf of their current and future clients.

“People in Georgia are really hurting. We have some really serious issues that legislators have been working to solve, and right now they’re proposing on top of all this to take away the constitutional rights of the people in Georgia?” asked their spokesperson.

I have called upon Michigan citizens to rally against this type of legislation and I call upon Georgia citizens to do the same. Each one of us, each one of us, is one accident away from being catastrophically injured or disabled. To find yourself in that circumstance and to have your own elected officials (people you may have voted for) working on legislation to prevent you from receiving justice, from receiving simple and appropriate compensation for the wrong perpetrated upon you, is serious insult upon serious injury. Don’t let the Chamber, the Governor or the Legislature do this to you or your fellow citizens without voicing your strong opposition to such proposed legislation. As we have seen with the financial bailout, when the responsible business refuses to pay or gets a “free pass” from doing so, the taxpayers are left holding the bag. A disabled person will rely on government benefits (taxpayers) when private business or insurance is excused from responsibility.

I have seen, in Michigan, what grass roots organization against these type of politics can do in opposition. I encourage you to get involved, organize, contact your legislator and state or local trial lawyer or consumer advocacy associations. Once legislation like this passes, it is almost impossible to get rid of. Therefore, Georgia, I implore you to oppose it from the top of your voice.

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