One more step for medical malpractice changes

Posted April 21, 2011

— A measure rewriting the state’s medical malpractice laws is headed toward a final vote in the state Senate – but not before House lawmakers moderated some of its more controversial provisions.

One of the changes House lawmakers made Wednesday was to remove the cap on non-economic damages for death, paralysis, brain damage and other major, tangible injuries. Non-economic damages would still be capped at $500,000 for intangible damages like pain and suffering and emotional distress.

The bill’s sponsor, Rep. Johnathan Rhyne, R-Lincoln, argued that lawmakers should limit all non-economic damages. “It shouldn’t be left unfettered to a jury,” Rhyne said. “They’re totally unpredictable, and you never know what you’re going to get.”

But amendment sponsor Rep. Grey Mills, R-Iredell, disagreed. “You can’t treat all cases the same,” he argued. “I believe that juries should decide the cases and the value of the cases after hearing all the evidence. I don’t believe we should decide here in Raleigh.”

The House also modified a proposed change in standards for emergency room doctors. Earlier proposals would have made ER providers immune from lawsuits except for deliberate acts of negligence. Under the House version, an ER patient would have to provide more evidence of malpractice than a regular patient, but the doctor could still be sued for a mistake.

The measure passed the House with strong bipartisan support. The Senate will decide next week whether to agree to the changes.

The NC Advocates for Justice, the trial lawyers’ association, praised the changes. "We're grateful to legislators in the House for improving the bill,” said Dick Taylor, chief executive of the organization. “The House's changes will protect patients and consumers. We hope the Senate will join the House and concur."

But lawyers and other advocates say they’re still concerned about several other proposals to change liability laws. House lawmakers are also considering changes to the state’s workers compensation system. A key committee is set to debate that measure next week.


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  • 6079 SMITH W Apr 22, 2011

    "Never, Neo-Conned, forget....... what rules, regulations, common sense, reason, rational thought, logic, decency, ethical parameters, disdain for greed, and mass tolerance for progress has stolen from thee......" *

    * Inscription for the new granite monolith to be installed at 16 West Jones St, to commemorate the re-birth of the GOP. ;)

  • sillywabbitthepatriot Apr 22, 2011

    It is difficult to contain staph.

    You should put some blame upon the deterioration of family and not hospital staff if someone is alone while in a hospital. A person should have someone with them at all times while in the hospital, especially the elderly.

  • See Chart Apr 22, 2011

    Republican's love to limit damages when Physicians
    of hospitals make an egregious mistake unless of course it
    is one of their own family members that has an untoward death.
    I agree this article is not clear as to what is being
    changed or diminished,for better or worse.
    Look at the statistics as to how many people die each year
    in our hospitals before you think most malpractice cases are just from stiches not being removed and made up. The truth is hospitals should be sanitary and germ free but many patients die because of germ related uncleanliness in our hospitals, yes that is mal practice also un needed dying from infection,and in this country it is tens of thousands each year. Hopefully it wont be your family that has this happen or a preventable fall when no nurse is available to help an elderly patient go to the toilet,falls kill old folks big time in hospitals and yes nursing homes.

  • geosol Apr 22, 2011

    Another blatant attempt by the Republican party to help their rich benefactors and restrict the rights of all of our citizens. What happened to that "less government!!" promise that they keep breaking. I guess the fine print said "less government* EXCEPT when we can help out the rich folks and big corporations" REMEMBER IN 2012 and VOTE THEM ALL OUT!!!

  • sillywabbitthepatriot Apr 22, 2011

    How exactly is this bill changing what is already in place?

    Not enough details in the article.

  • GWALLY Apr 22, 2011

    ..."There's a reason why those 5-Star "Tourist" hospitals in Asia are doing so well..."

    But then THEY don't have trial lawyers, lobbiest, drug companies and politicians all with their fat grubby little hands out seeking cash payments for their "services"...!!!!

  • explorerford Apr 22, 2011

    This is a good bill, I am glad some level headed Republican's took out the disfigurement from the cap, well done.

    FairPlay, your comments are not correct, you have to have an expert Doctor in North Carolina sign off on any lawsuit before its filed, thats in the law already. So in order to even sue a Doctor, a plaintiff has to spend tens of thousands in their own money. There are no such things as a frivilous lawsuit in North Carolina.

    This is a good bill.

  • Worland Apr 21, 2011

    There's a reason why those 5-Star "Tourist" hospitals in Asia are doing so well. American trained doctors, state of the art equipment, private rooms, 1/4 cost of US hospitals... and cheap malpractice insurance. No ambulance chasers allowed. No rediculous law suits.

  • FairPlay Apr 21, 2011

    Malpractice needs to be reformed. I used to work in medicine and people would sue if they did not like the scar stitches left, or if they did not think enough padding was put on an injury. One lady sued a Dermatologist because he refused to continue a strong acne medication even after her skin was clear. It is silly to let people sue for anything and everything.
    THAT drives medical costs up.

  • dontgetmestarted Apr 21, 2011

    The cost of healthcare just went up.