"New Laws For Courts, Attys, Workers On Ga. Gov.'s Desk"
In a March 31 article detailing takeaways from the 2023 Georgia legislative session, Bobby Potter shared extensive insight with Law360 about a wide variety of measures headed towards Governor Brian Kemp’s desk for review.
Among the potential new laws addressed by Potter, who focuses his practice on workers’ compensation and government affairs, was the narrow expansion of workers’ compensation benefits in H.B. 480. As is done fairly regularly, the bill increases disability compensation as well as total compensation payable to surviving spouses as the sole dependents at the time of an employee’s death. Potter noted that the move was essentially to keep up with statewide average weekly wage and doesn’t drastically change Georgia’s generally conservative approach to workers’ benefits.
“There needed to be some explanation along the way to get people comfortable with it, that was in fact not a broad expansion but relatively narrow,” Potter said. “But at the end of the day, it received acceptability on both sides with very few negative votes.”
Potter also addressed a bill, H.B. 543, that affects litigation in the state by expanding the number of civil cases that can be tried with a six-person jury in state courts. With this bill’s passage, cases worth less than $50,000 can be tried this way as opposed to the previous $25,000 limit. Potter noted that the lower threshold had been in place for some time, and the change was motivated by limited access to jurors and a backlog of cases due to the pandemic.
"This arose from kind of an ad hoc committee that Judge [Alvin T.] Wong from DeKalb County [State Court] chaired, and it was about a yearlong discussion," Potter said. "I'm sure there was discussion all over the board about whether this was good for one side or the other."
Another impactful bill for the legal profession included S.B. 74, which offers guidance for issuing protective orders to shield high-ranking officials from depositions and tightens rules around advertising by out-of-state lawyers. The bill incorporates factors of the “apex doctrine,” which is a discovery framework aimed at protecting top executives from having to testify in litigation that has previously failed to pass in the past and was denied by the Georgia Supreme court in June.
Potter noted that there are mixed views from the business and legal community, saying “ There would be some in the business community that would say it was a marginal win. There were others that would say it was not a win, and some that were comfortable with the language."
The lawyer advertising portion of the bill restricts those who aren’t licensed to practice in Georgia from representing that they are. Potter said it remains to be seen how the provision plays out and that there is a balance there because of commercial free speech that has been established by the U.S. Supreme Court.
For the full article, which also covers bills related to auto insurance rates and telemarketing violations, please click here.