Governor Perdue vetoed it, but the NC House overturned it. Senate Bill 33 has passed. (You can read the bill in full here.) Many times in a case involving a client who was the victim of medical malpractice, we have called into court records the testimony of an expert in the field. While this professional was not directly involved in the incident, he or she knows the Standards of Practice that medical workers in that industry must work within. But now the Standards of Practice have been lowered -- there are changes in the levels of misconduct and intent required to prove negligence. And the expert testimony can only be based on evidence and information in the actual case at hand -- there can be no reference to other occurrences or hypothetical situations.
Here's another part of the "reform" bill -- the maximum amount of money recovered for non-economic damages has been set at $250,000. That's a lifetime maximum of a quarter million dollars but what's the price to pay for causing pain, suffering, stress and physical impairment to a person? Economic damages such as a loss of income or medical charges are simple to pinpoint, based on past history and dollar amounts. But now there's a cap on the price to be paid for pain.
One other change that the bill invokes is for judges to determine if the payment of an award is to be completed in one lump sum or if it can be paid to the defendant in periodic payments. Medical malpractice victims may now receive their award amounts on a payment plan -- in installments. It's as though they had received their emotional stress and pain only in installments. Ridiculous doesn't even cover it.
Surely only the medical industry benefits from these changes in malpractice liability and award payments.
This article was written by Chip Permar