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By Eric Stirgus May 7, 2013

Chamber leader errs on tort reform claim

One of the state’s leading business boosters recently offered some advice he believes will help improve Georgia’s economy.

The Peach State needs additional measures to ensure businesses get a fair shake in Georgia courtrooms.

"Other states have passed even better tort reforms," Chris Clark, the president of the Georgia Chamber of Commerce, told a group of business leaders at Berry College in Rome.

Clark offered some statistics to back up his claim. Six years ago, Georgia was first in the nation from the standpoint of a friendly legal climate to do business, said Clark, according to the Rome News-Tribune. Today, Clark said, Georgia ranks 24th.

A PolitiFact Georgia reader asked us to fact-check the claim, contending that Georgia was not No. 1 six years ago.

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce compiles research and has released a report on state lawsuit climate in each year during the past decade, except 2009. The rankings are based on a number of factors, including treatment of tort and contract litigation, treatment of class-action lawsuits, punitive damages, judge impartiality and fairness.

Last year, Georgia was ranked 24th, as Clark said. However, Georgia was ranked 31st in 2007. In 2006, Georgia was ranked 27th. Georgia ranked no higher than 24th in any year since 2002.

The Georgia Legislature last changed its laws on tort reform in 2005, the chamber noted.

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When contacted by PolitiFact Georgia, Joselyn Baker, a senior vice president for the Georgia Chamber, said that Clark erred in his remarks.

"Chris did misspeak earlier," Baker told us. "As you can imagine, he gives a lot of speeches that contain a lot of data … and sometimes can make a mistake."

She added: "That said – the point he was making does not change. Georgia made some significant progress with civil justice reform in 2005 that made a positive impact on our business climate. The Georgia Chamber believes that the legal environment is an important factor in location and expansion decisions and that we must continue to look for ways to ensure that businesses are treated fairly in the courts and that our state compares favorably with our economic competition."

Our tipster, Chris Kelleher, spokesman for the Georgia Trial Lawyers Association, said he contacted us because some chamber leaders have made similar claims in the past.

Kelleher said in an email that Georgia is among "the top 10 most pro-business states in the country." Kelleher complained "the chamber continues to perpetuate its myth that our legal climate makes Georgia unattractive to businesses."

To sum up, Clark said that in just six years, Georgia had fallen from first in the nation from a legal climate standpoint to do business to 24th. Georgia was most recently ranked 24th, as Clark said. But it has been nowhere near first, based on the study he used for his claim.

Clark is right about the most recent ranking, but he was way off about Georgia previously being first.


We rate Clark’s claim Mostly False.

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Chamber leader errs on tort reform claim

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