Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Rulings Favor Business, Study Says

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Rulings Favor Business, Study Says

Article excerpt

Byline: JAKE ARMSTRONG

ATLANTA -- Georgia laws tend to favor businesses over consumers, and appeals court rulings reflect that tilt, according to a consumer group's newest study.

Georgia Watch, a nonpartisan consumer advocacy group based in Atlanta, tracked rulings the Georgia Supreme Court and Court of Appeals handed down in 2007.

The study found the courts' opinions in consumer issues usually follow state law, which is their constitutional duty.

"The courts follow in lockstep, taking the laws the [General Assembly] writes and evaluating them against the Georgia Constitution," said Allison Wall, executive director of Georgia Watch.

Joe Fleming, senior vice president of government affairs for the Georgia Chamber of Commerce, said the chamber supports the court's narrow interpretations, which has fostered rulings that generally benefit business. He said that will be key this year when the issue of caps on punitive damages in medical malpractice suits reaches the court. A ruling in favor of a cap aids business by putting downward pressure on health insurance costs employers pay for their workers, he said.

"There's huge cost burdens there," Fleming said.

While the focus on consumer issues usually falls in the political arena where the laws are created, the courts' interpretation of those laws reverberates into the lives of all Georgians, since lower courts must follow that interpretation, Wall said.

SUPREME COURT HIGHLIGHTS

WINS FOR CONSUMERS, ACCORDING TO ADVOCATES

PAYDAY LENDING

Justices broadly interpreted the state's ban on payday lending after two men charged with nearly 100 misdemeanor counts of violating the law challenged its constitutionality, claiming it was vague. The court's ruling tamps down emerging payday lending schemes, such as disguising the loans and sales-leaseback of property owned by the borrower, used to circumvent the ban. …

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