The Georgia State Supreme Court has released an opinion upholding a major component of Georgia’s 2005 tort reform law. The ruling deals with the jury’s ability to determine who is responsible for damages (and by what percentage) when there are multiple defendents.
The court issued its opinion in a case brought by a man who was attacked, abducted and robbed by unknown assailants in August 2009 at a Red Roof Inns hotel in Atlanta. Nairobi Couch, the victim, had sued the hotel’s owners for failing to keep their premises safe and provide adequate security.
By a 5-2 vote, the state Supreme Court said that a jury, when deciding on an award of damages to Couch, can consider the fault of Couch’s assailants and apportion the amount of the damages based on the percentage of all those responsible for the attack. The court also said a jury can receive a special verdict form requiring it to decide how much the hotel and the assailants should pay, should the jury find them liable.
Lawsuits for damages will now be about who is at fault, not who nearby has the deepest pockets. At least in theory.