House Divides Medical Liability Reform and Other Tort Issues

On Thursday, the House committee looking at tort reform issues divided the big issues into two bills. Senate Bill 33 will be the vehicle for medical liability reforms. House Bill 542 will continue to be the vehicle for other, general tort reforms.

Senate Bill 33 addresses caps on noneconomic damages, periodic payments, appeal bond reforms, bifurcated trials, emergency care, and strengthening expert pre-litigation review. The biggest medical liability change made at today’s meeting was the removal of the gross negligence standard for medical emergencies. That provision was replaced with a requirement that cases involving medical emergencies covered by EMTALA be proved by clear and convincing evidence, rather than by a mere preponderance of the evidence. The amendment was sponsored by Rep. Grey Mills (R-Iredell). Other unfavorable amendments were defeated by the committee or held out of order by the chair, including an amendment to prohibit depositions of medical experts, raise the threshold for bifurcation of trials, and modify the periodic payment provisions.

House Bill 542 also contains provisions of significance to health care. The provision allowing juries to hear about actual medical costs, not just full charges, is in H542, as is a provision providing drug manufacturers limited protection for products they manufacture and market in compliance with FDA regulations. The committee defeated an amendment to remove the FDA provision.

The NCMS continues to work in concert with a broad coalition of medical specialty groups, hospitals, and business interests to pass meaningful medical liability reform. These issues are far from resolved, and we will need the broad participation of doctors throughout the state to achieve meaningful reform. The NCMS is also leading a media campaign, through a new entity called North Carolinians for Affordable Health Care, Inc., to educate the public about the cost of our medical liability system and the need for change.

Please click here to learn more about this effort and to make a contribution.


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