Thomas A. Eaton J. Alton and Susette M. Talarico
Creative Research Medal 2003
Thomas A. Eaton, J. Alton Hosch Professor of Law, and Susette M. Talarico, Albert Berry Saye Professor of American Government and Constitutional Law, have conducted the most systematic and in-depth study of tort litigation in any state. Tort cases – or civil suits that seek damages for wrongful conduct – have been the subject of much public debate. While medical and insurance communities demand tort reforms that limit damage awards, consumer advocates and trial lawyers refute the need for change. Professors Eaton and Talarico’s study provides Georgia public policymakers with research-based evidence about tort litigation and how the state’s legal system works. They have analyzed more than 27,000 tort cases in Georgia and have used this data to ask important public policy questions about the legal system, such as whether tort reform is necessary. Their findings show that tort cases represent a small percentage of civil litigation, are not increasing in number, usually involve simple disputes, and rarely go to trial. For cases that go to court, plaintiffs and defendants are equally successful, but when plaintiffs win, the awards tend to be modest and rarely punitive. Their comprehensive study continues to inform debate on tort reform in Georgia and the nation.