Hearing on Medical Malpractice Legislation Today (SB 33)

The Senate J1 Committee just completed its first meeting on Senate Bill 33 – Medical Liability Reforms. The purpose of the meeting was to explain the bill, section by section. Senator Tom Apodaca (R-Buncombe) went through each section of the bill, then turned to the committee staff to provide a more detailed explanation. In short, the bill changes the negligence standard applicable to emergency situations that fall within the definition of EMTALA, caps non-economic damages at $250,000 per plaintiff, provides for periodic payment of large “future damage” awards, and limits the amount of appeal bond that would be needed if a physician wants to appeal a large award that exceeds their insurance policy limits.

There were several questions from members of the committee. Addressing the periodic payments section of the bill, Senator Goolsby (R-New Hanover) asked a question about a provision that permits a periodic payment schedule to be terminated in the event the plaintiff dies before all scheduled payment have been made. Senator Goolsby’s question was whether payments to mothers working in the home without compensation would be terminated in the event the mother dies prematurely, or if those payments would continue to be made to the survivors.

Addressing the emergency standard of care section of the proposal, Senator Clodfelter (D-Mecklenburg) asked if it’s clear when “stabilization” of a patient has been achieved, as that term is used in the EMTALA law. Senator Stein (D-Wake) asked whether the current standard of care in medical malpractice actions is already more forgiving for emergency situations than it is for non-emergencies.

The next hearing is Thursday, February 17, 2011 at 10:00 AM.


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1 Comment

  • Mike S.

    Texas instituted similar changes. They didn’t help contain health care costs. While Texas tort reforms led to a cap on pain-and-suffering awards at two hundred and fifty thousand dollars Texas is one of the most expensive health care markets in the country. In 2006 Medicare spent fifteen thousand dollars per person enrolled which is almost twice the national average — although the average town resident earns only $12,000 a year. Medicare spends three thousand dollars more per person here than the average person earns.

    Why isn’t anyone talking about place a cap on malpractice premiums and requiring the carriers to justify increases rather than reduce the compensation of those who have been injured?