ATLANTA — A Georgia Senate bill backed by Republicans aims to take on the tall task of limiting lawsuits in state courts, citing high legal costs faced by businesses.
Senate Bill 415, sponsored by state Sen. Steve Gooch of Dahlonega, would make many changes to civil law in Georgia. It would change the information that could be provided to jurors trying civil cases, make it more difficult to sue landowners for injuries caused by a third party and limit the amount of time someone has to bring a product liability lawsuit, among other provisions.
Gooch said during a news conference Thursday that "Georgia's reputation has been badly tarnished in recent years by a civil justice system that tolerates lawsuit abuse, expands theory of liability for businesses and property owners, awards frequent nuclear or runaway verdicts and fails to deliver on the promise of predictability." He said that drives up costs on everything from grocery items to insurance premiums for Georgia families and businesses.
The bill was heard by a Senate subcommittee Wednesday. No vote was taken, though Gooch said he'd like to make a few changes in consultation with committee members and bring it back quickly.
Jon Pope, an attorney in Gainesville and the executive vice president for the Georgia Trial Lawyers Association, spoke forcefully against the bill.
"Senate Bill 415, if it becomes law, is going to drastically change about 15 areas of law," Pope said. "Trucking, aviation, municipal law, tort law, jury trials, rules of evidence, product liability, premises liability, asbestos law."
Pope provided specific criticism for each section of the bill during the committee hearing and said the legislation was "not good for the state of Georgia."
The bill came about as a result of several recommendations put together by a Senate study committee last year that included Gooch.