GMTA-supported HB 758 is moving toward its first hearing in the House Motor Vehicles Committee, and the long-anticipated effort at tort reform should be introduced as a bill by month’s end.
HB 758, by Rep. Powell and others, seeks to clarify that required participation in safety programs or use of safety technology does not turn an independent contractor into an employee.
The coming tort reform legislation will tackle a long list of recommended changes to help “level the playing field” between defendants and the multi-billion-dollar plaintiff’s industry. GMTA worked to ensure truck-specific recommendations were included. Some of the recommendations expected in the bill are:
A punitive damage cap.
Admissibility of seatbelt use in motor vehicle tort cases.
End “phantom damages.” This is a practice that lets plaintiffs sue for reimbursement without ever having to prove they are actually out-of-pocket the amount they are suing for. This is particularly bad when medical issues are involved as the plaintiff can sue for the “list-price” cost of tests/procedures even if insurance companies paid for most or all of the treatment.
Premises liability reform to better protect landowners.
Changing Georgia’s rules of civil procedure so that a plaintiff cannot dismiss a lawsuit without prejudice once an answer has been filed.
Enact “proportionality in discovery” to place “reasonable limitations on document discovery” in litigation based on its projected cost, the total amount of damages sought in the lawsuit and the “needs of the case.”
End “jury anchoring.” This is a practice where plaintiff’s lawyers suggest an unusually high amount as fair in order to plant the seed that juries are being unfair if they award less than the suggestion.
“Default judgment reform” to allow judges “at their discretion” to open a default judgment after the court’s term has expired.
The requirement for written jury instructions.
The cap on interest that can be charged by litigation funding companies.
The mandatory scheduling orders requirement.
Expansion of Georgia’s “business judgment rule,” which shields officers and directors from liability for business decisions unless gross negligence can be shown, to include nonprofit organizations, foundations and cooperatives.
Prohibit “direct action in trucking suits,” so that a plaintiff cannot sue a trucking company’s insurer.
The settlement demand proposal calls for a committee of plaintiffs and defense lawyers to craft standards such that material terms in the offer are the only terms to the settlement; apply the law to all personal injury settlements; allow the parties to discuss the terms “without it being considered a counteroffer;” and link the time to settle to the date of the demand.
The contingency fee cap, which calls for a committee of plaintiffs and defense lawyers to “derive collective wisdom to maximize returns for plaintiffs, while maintaining fair compensation for plaintiffs’ attorneys.”