SB 33 – Medical Liability Reforms: The Power of Organized Medicine

July 25, 2011 will be forever one of the most important days in the history of the North Carolina Medical Society. On that day the NC House voted 74-42 to override the Governor’s veto of SB 33—Medical Liability Reforms, allowing North Carolina to join a majority of states where medical liability reforms are already in place. The victory demonstrated the power of organized medicine and our ability to work with the medical and business communities to advance affordable, quality health care for all our citizens.

As the 2011 legislative session got underway in late January, NCMS leaders had named medical liability reforms as the number one priority this session. Even with the challenges of a huge state budget shortfall in the background, NCMS staff and leaders remained steadfast in their determination and effort to gain medical liability reforms to reduce health care costs and create a fairer tort system for physicians and the people of our state.

A brief timeline highlighting some key moments during the 2011 legislative session reveals how this victory evolved:


  • SB 33 – Medical Liability Reforms is filed in the Senate.
  • House Speaker Thom Tillis (R, Mecklenburg) named the House Select Committee on Tort Reform
  • Senate Judiciary 1 Committee continued to work on SB 33.


  • Senate passes and sends to the House SB 33
  • North Carolinians for Affordable Healthcare, a coalition led by the NCMS, began airing TV ads across the state calling for public support of SB 33
  • House Select Committee on Tort Reform works on draft legislation


  • HB 542—Tort Reform for Citizens and Business, a bill described as “big and bold,” is filed in the House
  • House Select Committee on Tort Reform begins hearings on HB 542
  • House divides medial liability reforms and tort issues into two bills: SB 33 will contain medical liability reforms; HB 542 will include general tort reforms
  • House passes SB 33 and returns it to the Senate
  • Conference Committee is named to work out differences over House and Senate versions of SB 33


  • House passes and sends to Senate HB 542
  • General Assembly enacts SB 33 on June 9 and sends it to the Governor for her signature
  • HB 542 is enacted on June 17 and is signed by the Governor on June 20
  • Governor vetoes SB 33 on June 24
  • NCMS and its coalition partners rally members through Town Hall meetings, alerts, phone calls and emails to contact legislators and urge them to override the veto
  • General Assembly recesses and agrees to return in July to consider vetos


  • Senate votes to override the veto on July 13
  • House votes to override the veto on July 25

Not shown by the timeline but critical to our success are the countless hours invested by NCMS staff, leaders, members’ grassroots efforts, and partners on behalf of physicians across North Carolina, including component/county and specialty societies, group practices, physician assistants, the medical group managers, hospitals, nursing homes, chambers of commerce and other business organizations. This is the power of organized medicine. Your participation and support do make a difference. Invite your colleagues who aren’t members to join us—the North Carolina Medical Society—Leadership in Medicine.


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