Medical Liability Reform Passes General Assembly

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Jun 9, 2011 No Comments ›› NCAHC

The NCAHC coalition is pleased to report that the North Carolina General Assembly took historic action today to address serious problems with our medical liability system. Both the House and Senate gave final legislative approval to the first bill in 16 years to improve the practice of medicine as it relates to physician liability. The proposal, known as Senate Bill 33, will now go to Governor Perdue’s desk.  Legislation passed today includes the following provisions: 

  1. Tackles excessive jury awards by capping noneconomic damages.
  2. Improves access to emergency care by requiring that any liability claim arising from treatment of an emergency medical condition be proved by “clear and convincing evidence.”
  3. Addresses the classic jury error of confusing bad outcomes with medical negligence by requiring juries to first determine if the physician was negligent before time is taken to present evidence of the severity of harm.
  4. Ensures that the right to appeal is preserved in cases of large jury awards by requiring the court to set appeal bonds based on consideration of relevant factors such as amount of policy limits and net worth of the defendant.
  5. Strengthens pre-litigation expert review of medical malpractice claims by requiring the reviewing expert to review all of the reasonably available medical records.
  6. Restores fairness to claims of medical negligence made on behalf of minors by requiring such claims to be brought in a more timely manner.

The NCAHC is grateful for the leadership demonstrated by the NC General Assembly in addressing these issues in 2011. The genuine problems with medical liability system in North Carolina have gone unaddressed for far too long. Senate Bill 33 is the product of many, many hours of hard work by the coalition partners. Many medical specialty organizations, hospitals, health care interests and the business community have devoted their resources to this project.

We urge Governor Perdue to sign Senate Bill 33 into law in order to implement reforms that make a real difference for physicians and their patients.