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Does Georgia Have Caps on Medical Malpractice Recoveries?

Posted on December 24th, 2014 by Admin

As of 2005, Georgia had a $350,000 cap on recovering non-economic damages resulting from medical malpractice.  This meant that if your child suffered from a traumatic brain injury or some other devastating disability as a result of a medical practitioner’s negligence, your Atlanta attorney could not recover more than $350,000 in non-economic damages.  Pain and suffering is the most common type of non-economic damage pursued in cases, but there are also other types of non-economic damages.  The cap hardly seemed fair when extreme pain and suffering was involved.

However, in 2010, the Georgia Supreme Court found the $350,000 cap to be unconstitutional, when ruling on the case Atlanta Oculoplastic Surgery v.Nestlehutt.  Betty Nestlehutt was a 75-year-old woman who had plastic surgery that resulted in infections and left her face disfigured.  Prior to the Supreme Court appeal, the jury had awarded Nestlehutt $1,265,000, consisting of:

  • $115,000 for past and future medical expenses
  • $900,000 for pain and suffering
  • $250,000 for loss of consortium

The defendant appealed to have the non-economic damages (totaling $1,150,000) reduced to $350,000.  In reviewing the medical malpractice case, the Supreme Court justices referred to the Georgia Constitution, which guarantees the right to a trial by jury in all its essential elements and that included non-economic damages, as determined by the jury.  The Supreme Court found that the statute imposing caps nullifies a jury’s findings of fact regarding damages and thereby undermines the jury’s basic function.  Lawyers are now free to pursue uncapped non-economic damages.

If you or a loved one has suffered as a result of medical malpractice, the Cochran Firm Atlanta is committed to seeing you receive the compensation you deserve.

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