New Coalition Takes Aim at Tort Reform in Georgia

Dave Williams

Thursday, August 31st, 2023

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A new nonprofit founded by three high-power lobbying firms is setting its sites on tort reform in Georgia.

Competitive Georgia announced its formation Tuesday, the latest sign that business leaders are preparing a major push for the General Assembly to curb what they see as frivolous lawsuits that drive up the cost of doing business.

The coalition is being led by Atlanta-based Troutman Pepper Strategies, Cornerstone Government Affairs, and Robbins Government Relations, also headquartered in Atlanta. Ben Tarbutton III, president of Sandersville Railroad Co., and Mitch Stephens, chairman and CEO of Atlanta-based commercial construction and real estate firm Mitchell Stephens Co., will serve as co-chairs of the organization.

“Frivolous lawsuits caused by Georgia’s legal environment have cost businesses – large and small – millions of dollars,” Tarbutton and Stephens wrote in a joint statement. “We look forward to working with Competitive Georgia and our elected leaders to make Georgia’s legal system fair and equitable for all parties so we can keep our state growing and on track for decades to come.”

Georgia Republicans have long embraced the cause of tort reform. The General Assembly passed legislation in 2005 – the first year the GOP was in full control of the legislature – setting a $350,000 cap on non-economic damages in lawsuits.

But the state Supreme Court overturned the law in 2010. Since then, efforts to pass significant tort reform have faltered amid opposition from legislative Democrats and the trial lawyers lobby, which have argued tort reform takes away the rights of victims of car crashes and medical malpractice to their day in court.

Gov. Brian Kemp told an audience of political and business leaders earlier this month he will push for tort reform legislation during the 2024 session of the General Assembly starting in January.

“Georgia companies, health-care providers and others have seen the cost of doing business rise substantially over the past decade due to runaway nuclear verdicts,” state Senate Majority Leader Steve Gooch, R-Dahlonega, said Tuesday. “We cannot let Georgia lose its status as the best state for business because of skyrocketing prices on goods and services, and insurance premiums reaching all-time highs.”

About Dave Williams

Dave Williams has covered state government and politics in Georgia since 1999 and for several years before that, covered Georgia’s congressional delegation in Washington, D.C. He began his career in radio news in Florida and Upstate New York.