Since the founding of our republic more than two centuries ago, the jury has been a bulwark in defense of our liberties. The lessons of history have taught us that regular people on a jury are collectively smarter than any single person and can be trusted to provide a just decision in a civil case in which a person has been injured by the negligence of another. A chief purpose compensation awarded by juries is to put the injured party in as near his pre-injury position as possible. What this means is that a jury may be asked to award an injured person that amount of money that jurors would require to place themselves in the injured party’s position.
Our time-honored and well-serving tradition of trial by jury, however, is now under attack as never before in the State of North Carolina. Pending in the North Carolina legislature is a bill that would limit compensation that a court may award to a patient injured by the negligence of his doctor for “non-economic damages” to $250,000.00. Non-economic damages are those intangibles that defy precise measurement but are nonetheless vital to our well-being, such as pain, suffering, disfigurement, emotional distress, physical impairment and loss of the companionship of a loved one. Although the legislation which is now pending would still allow juries to award victims of medical malpractice an amount they deem just under the circumstances, the judge would reduce any award for non-compensatory damages to $250,000.00. To put this in perspective, this means that the toddler who lost both arms and legs as a result of medical malpractice would receive only $250,000.00 for those lost appendages, even though he will never be able to run with his friends or hug his mom and dad. No longer will juries decide, in their collective wisdom, what the things that give us so much joy in life are worth. Rather, the maximum amount that one who has been disfigured by malpractice can receive will be limited by a majority of legislators without regard to the acts or the egregious nature of the injury.
If you agree that juries, and not elected officials should determine the value of the lost companionship of a loved one, disfigurement or chronic health problems caused by medical malpractice, contact your North Carolina legislator and let that legislator know that you oppose SB33. You can reach your representative by clicking here.