This recent decision of the Georgia Court of Appeals involved the question of venue for tort claims brought against the State of Georgia. Four separate actions were consolidated for purposes of this appeal.
The parents of Cayleb Drayton filed suit for negligence against the Board of Regents of the University System of Georgia under the Georgia Tort Claims Act, governing tort claims against the state or any its political subdivisions. In a separate action, the parents of Jonathan White filed suit for negligence against the same Defendant under the same statute.
Cayleb Drayton’s parents filed a second suit for negligence against MCG Health, Inc., MCG Health System, Inc., the Medical College of Georgia Physician Practice Group Foundation, and Georgia Regents Medical Associates, Inc., also under the Georgia Tort Claims Act. Jonathan White’s parents filed a second suit for negligence against the same Defendants under the same statute.
All four suits were filed in DeKalb County State Court, and all claims arose out of the medical care and treatment their children received at Children’s Hospital of Georgia (Georgia Regents Medical Center) in Richmond County.
After undergoing surgical procedures in Richmond County, the children were transferred to Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta in DeKalb County where they received multiple corrective surgeries that required lengthy hospitalizations.
All alleged negligent acts or omissions occurred in Richmond County, but Plaintiffs filed their Complaints in DeKalb County where a substantial portion of their losses occurred.
Defendants moved the trial court for a change of venue to Richmond County. Their motion was denied, and this appeal followed.
In Board of Regents v. Jordan, (No. A15A1994, et al., Ga. App., February 12, 2016), the Georgia Court of Appeals first looked at the mandatory venue provision of the Georgia Tort Claims Act. That portion of the Georgia Code, section 50-21-28, provided, “All tort actions against the state . . . shall be brought in the state or superior court of the county wherein the loss occurred . . . .” The Court of Appeals ruled this was a mandatory provision that applied even if there were other defendants that were not state entities.
The Court of Appeals then stated that the determinative factor for venue was where the loss occurred. Under Georgia Code section 50-21-22(3), the term loss was defined in part as “economic loss to the person who suffered the injury . . . ; pain and suffering; mental anguish; and any other element of actual damages recoverable in actions for negligence.”
According to the court, the meaning of the statute was clear. Finding there was no dispute that the Plaintiffs incurred their losses in DeKalb County, the ruling of the trial court was affirmed. Venue for all four cases was proper in DeKalb County.