State Senate Passes Tort Reform Bill Aimed at ‘Direct Action’ Lawsuits

Dave Williams

Wednesday, February 14th, 2024

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Gov. Brian Kemp announced at the beginning of the 2024 General Assembly session that he would not push for comprehensive tort reform this year.

But the state Senate passed legislation Tuesday addressing one aspect of tort reform.

Senate Bill 426, which passed 46-2, would limit the ability of plaintiffs in lawsuits against commercial truckers to file suit directly against a trucking company’s insurance carrier. Legislation aimed at such “direct action” lawsuits is a tort reform priority of Lt. Gov. Burt Jones, who presides over the Senate.

Motor vehicle rates in Georgia have been on the rise because current state law allows insurers to be named directly in lawsuits filed by plaintiffs who have been injured in crashes with commercial trucks, Sen. Blake Tillery, R-Vidalia, the bill’s chief sponsor, said on the Senate floor.

“This hopefully will help regulate, stabilize, and reduce rates,” he said.

Tillery said about three dozen states have passed bills prohibiting direct action lawsuits in cases involving commercial trucks. The Georgia bill limits direct action suits but doesn’t prohibit them altogether, part of an agreement between the insurance industry and the trial lawyers’ lobby, said Tillery, himself a trial lawyer.

“We’re not going whole-hog toward ending direct action,” he said. “This is a very carefully crafted compromise.”

“The passage of this legislation was desperately needed in order to get Georgia’s business community the relief it needs,” Jones added following Tuesday’s vote. “We are making legitimate strides to level the playing field when a case reaches the courtroom.”

The bill, endorsed by the Georgia Chamber of Commerce, now moves to the state House of Representatives.