How The Georgia Insurance Industry Is Taking Away Your Rights


The Georgia legislature is back in session and, as usual, the insurance industry is up to its same old cynical practices of trying to strip away your rights in an effort to avoid paying claims which they, otherwise, would be obligated to pay. With regard to passing laws, the goal of the insurance industry is quite simple: pass legislation to limit your right to recover money for injuries, while at the same time making sure that they still get to charge premiums! The bottom line is that the insurance industry wants to increase their profit margins.  So, in order to do that, they preserve your right to sue (so that they can collect premiums), but then curtail your ability to actually recover money (so that they don’t have to actually pay on the claims made). You hear so much about “tort reform,” but nothing is further from the truth.  IT’S NOT “TORT REFORM,” IT’S “INSURANCE PROFIT PROTECTIONS LAWS!”

The latest example of this effort is in the form of SB141 which attacks the Constitutional Right to Trial by Jury for persons harmed by medical providers. In 2010, the Georgia Supreme Court (in case named Nestlehutt) held that a statutory cap on damages was NOT permitted under the Georgia State Constitution. In that decision, the Georgia Supreme Court UNANIMOUSLY held the following (and it’s a rare day when you see unanimous decision):

  • That, in Georgia, a right to jury trial applies to all “common law” causes of action when the Georgia Constitution was adopted;
  • That, in Georgia, the right to jury trial applies to injuries caused by medical personnel;
  • That, in Georgia, a citizen has a right to have the jury decide (a) if the medical provider caused the patient’s injury and (b) what is value of that patient’s injury; and,
  • That the Georgia law capping damages in medical malpractices cases was unconstitutional because the Georgia legislature improperly attempted to have citizens stripped of their right to have a jury decide the amount of damages to be awarded.

SB141 is a proposed law that takes away both of the two elements of a medical injury case. Unbelievable! First, it denies the right to have a jury decide the liability question. Second, it denies the right to have a jury decide the damages question.  Accordingly, it is obvious that SB141 is an attempt to eviscerate the Constitutional Right to Trial by Jury. Why? Because the insurance companies want to make more money by dodging paying claims.

Now, the citizens of Georgia could give up their right to jury trial by a constitutional amendment, but the Georgia legislature does not get to declare that right dead by passing this law.  As Supreme Court Justice David Nahmias (a very conservative voice on the Georgia Supreme Court) said in the Nestlehutt case: “The General Assembly has broad authority to address many vexing issues related to health care … but the Legislature’s discretion is bounded by the fundamental rights enshrined in our Constitution.” SB141 eliminates a patients’ jury trial rights, and, therefore, it is unconstitutional.  We would urge you to voice your opposition!

At Christopher L. Phillips Law Group, we have the experience, knowledge and compassion you need for the results you deserve