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Georgia House of Representatives Unanimously Passes House Bill 961

Great news! On March 1, 2022, the Georgia House of Representatives unanimously passed House Bill 961, which amends O.C.G.A. § 51-12-33(b) to provide for apportionment of damages in cases with a single defendant. House Bill 961 now crosses over to the Georgia Senate for approval. (House Bill 961 is identical to Senate Bill 329). Once passed by the General Assembly, amended O.C.G.A. § 51-12-33(b) will become effective upon its approval by the Governor, or upon its becoming law without such approval, and will apply to all causes of action accruing on or after the effective date.

Background: On August 10, 2021 the Georgia Supreme Court ruled that pursuant to the plain language of the current version of O.C.G.A. § 51-12-33(b), a trial court is only entitled to apportion damages to non-parties under OCGA § 51-12-33 (b) when there are multiple named defendants in the case. Alston & Bird, LLP v. Hatcher Mgmt. Holdings, LLC, 312 Ga. 350, 862 S.E.2d 295 (2021). Otherwise, when only one named defendant is present in the case, OCGA § 51-12-33 (a) controls and provides that damages may only be reduced or apportioned based on the amount of fault assigned to the plaintiff. Id. On November 1, 2021, the Georgia Court of Appeals further held that even when a case is initially brought against multiple defendants, if the Plaintiff dismisses all but one defendant, the trier of fact may not apportion damages to non-parties. Ga. CVS Pharmacy, LLC v. Carmichael, 362 Ga. App. 59, 865 S.E.2d 559 (2021). Once signed into law, House Bill 961 will revive apportionment in single defendant cases. 


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