Tort Reform Bill Victimizes Consumers Instead

We thought “business friendly” was good for everyone. But if a tort-reform bill in the N.C. House is an example of that friendliness, this state’s consumers are in for a rough ride.

The House has taken a problematic Senate tort-reform bill and turned it into something outrageous.

The Senate bill gives a pass to emergency room personnel in malpractice cases. Just how much of a pass is subject to some dispute among legal experts, but it appears to give ER doctors a better level of protection than most. Still, there’s room for reasonable debate whether this state could benefit from further restrictions on malpractice lawsuits. We’re inclined to believe we already have sufficient safeguards against frivolous suits but we’re willing to listen to opposing arguments.

The House approach to the issue has many of the same features in the Senate bill. But there’s one significant, and scary, addition: The bill would exempt all products from liability actions if they have any sort of government approval. For example, if you die because a drug has a heretofore unseen side effect, your family loses the right to sue.

This applies to more than medical situations. It covers all product liability. In most cases, that category of lawsuit will disappear in North Carolina. Consumers injured by faulty products lose their courtroom recourse.

The legislation was tailored under the direction of industry and lobbyists; in the bill’s initial hearing, only a drug-industry lobbyist was allowed to speak.

We are deeply disappointed to see our General Assembly veer in a consumer-be-damned direction, but that’s what this bill represents. It would leave North Carolinians with less product-safety protection than in any other state.

And we are doubly disappointed to see that the list of primary sponsors of this woebegone bill includes a Democrat from Bladen County, Rep. William Brisson, who also represents southern Cumberland County.

We are all for good discussion about the reasons for our fast-escalating cost of health care in this state and in the nation. We also favor legislative initiatives that can help drive down those costs, or at least keep them from rising so fast. Malpractice suits are one part of those rising costs, although there is no evidence that tort reform alone will solve the problem.

But the sponsors of House Bill 542 have done something amazing: Instead of better protecting consumers and their wallets, they want to victimize them. This bill needs to die an undignified death.

Source: Fayeteville Observer