The Medical Liability Reform Law, or Senate Bill 33, has left Representatives from Alamance County divided after the senate voted to overwrite the veto by the Governor after it passed the state Senate and House of Representatives in a modified form. The bill, in its current form, would cap non-economic damages at half a million dollars, limiting the amount of money awarded in medical malpractice lawsuits. The bill could exempt some doctors from litigation, as it would make it more difficult to find ER doctors guilty of malpractice unless an extremely high standard of negligence is proven.
Governor Perdue vetoed the bill after it passed the state Senate and House. The governor characterized the cap on non-economic damages as harmful to catastrophically injured patients. The Governor did express a desire for the General Assembly to pass medical malpractice reform laws.
“The NC legislature has decided to wage war against stay at home moms, children and the elderly. These three groups of people have little economic loss if they are catastrophically injured by a doctor, hospital employee or nursing home worker. Stay at home moms, children and the elderly do not usually work outside the home and the passage of this law will severely restrict their right to justice,” says Randall Hood of McGowan, Hood & Felder, LLC. “If a woman has to undergo a mastectomy because a physician misdiagnosed a lump in her breast, if a child is left paralyzed or brain injured in some medical mishap or an older person is left in a vegetative state by the actions of employees of a nursing home, they are not allowed to obtain more than $500,000 in non-economic damages. This law protects the most wealthy of citizens, doctors, and corporations like hospitals and nursing homes and punishes some of the most vulnerable people in our society. What a SHAME!!”
The divide amongst lawmakers arises not only from the flip-flop of the cap on non-economic damages, but also because some claim the cap will protect against and “do away” with frivolous lawsuits, restoring sanity to the legal system. Others claim the cap is “too tight” to allay the pain of catastrophic injuries and that “gross negligence” is an impossible standard.