The NCGOP opened the current legislative session with a blitzkrieg assault on the civil rights of North Carolinians. High on its list of legislative priorities was so-called tort “reform.” The tort reform the NCGOP, supported by the NC Chamber of Commerce, big business and the insurance industry, is pushing is contained in HB 542 & SB 33. HB 542 gives the pharmaceutical industry immunity for dangerous drugs if the drugs have FDA approval. Since all prescription drugs sold in the US are required to have prior FDA approval, the drug industry gets total immunity. Only one other state, Michigan, deprives its citizens of the right to seek compensation for defective drugs. HB 542 also contains what is known as “billed vs. paid” which gives the negligent party in a personal injury case part of the benefit of the injured party’s health insurance coverage. This flies in the face of the Republican “personal responsibility” mantra, but the insurance industry is pushing it.
Apparently, Republican ideology takes a back seat to payoffs to campaign contributors. The bill also makes it more difficult for expert witnesses to testify in court and gives 75% of all punitive damages after the first $100k to the state. The latter provision is designed to discourage plaintiffs from seeking large punitive damage awards against big businesses. However, the threat of large punitive damage awards is the only thing that keeps big businesses from producing products that kill or severely injure consumers– a la Ford Pinto. If it can be made cheaper with no or little accountability, businesses will do it to increase profits. Bet on it.
The insanity continues with SB 33, which gives ER doctors immunity from their negligence. You heard right. ER doctors are special, or maybe it’s just that doctors, hospitals and the AMA fill the GOP coffers. No other profession has immunity from acts of professional negligence. So if this bill passes, you may want to tell the ambulance driver to head to Va. or SC to find a hospital.
The only way to defeat these outrageous bills is for enough NC citizens to express opposition to their state representatives. So if these bills sound like a bad idea to you, please take a few minutes to contact your state reps:
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