GENERAL ASSEMBLY OF NORTH CAROLINA

SESSION 2011

 

 

SESSION LAW 2011-400

SENATE BILL 33

 

 

AN ACT to reform the laws relating to money judgment appeal bonds, bifurcation of trials in civil cases, and medical liability.

 

The General Assembly of North Carolina enacts:

 

SECTION 1.  G.S. 1-289 reads as rewritten:

" 1-289.  Undertaking to stay execution on money judgment.

(a)        If the appeal is from a judgment directing the payment of money, it does not stay the execution of the judgment unless a written undertaking is executed on the part of the appellant, by one or more sureties, as set forth in this section.

(b)        In an action where the judgment directs the payment of money, the court shall specify the amount of the undertaking required to stay execution of the judgment pending appeal as provided in subsection (c) of this section. The undertaking shall be to the effect that if the judgment appealed from, or any part thereof, is affirmed, or the appeal is dismissed, the appellant will pay the amount directed to be paid by the judgment, or the part of such amount as to which the judgment shall be affirmed, if affirmed only in part, and all damages which shall be awarded against the appellant upon the appeal, except as provided in subsection (b) of this section. Whenever it is satisfactorily made to appear to the court that since the execution of the undertaking the sureties have become insolvent, the court may, by rule or order, require the appellant to execute, file and serve a new undertaking, as above. In case of neglect to execute such undertaking within twenty days after the service of a copy of the rule or order requiring it, the appeal may, on motion to the court, be dismissed with costs. Whenever it is necessary for a party to an action or proceeding to give a bond or an undertaking with surety or sureties, he may, in lieu thereof, deposit with the officer into court money to the amount of the bond or undertaking to be given. The court in which the action or proceeding is pending may direct what disposition shall be made of such money pending the action or proceeding. In a case where, by this section, the money is to be deposited with an officer, a judge of the court, upon the application of either party, may, at any time before the deposit is made, order the money deposited in court instead of with the officer; and a deposit made pursuant to such order is of the same effect as if made with the officer. The perfecting of an appeal by giving the undertaking mentioned in this section stays proceedings in the court below upon the judgment appealed from; except when the sale of perishable property is directed, the court below may order the property to be sold and the proceeds thereof to be deposited or invested, to abide the judgment of the appellate court.

(c)        The amount of the undertaking that shall be required by the court shall be an amount determined by the court after notice and hearing proper and reasonable for the security of the rights of the adverse party, considering relevant factors, including the following:

(1)        The amount of the judgment.

(2)        The amount of the limits of all applicable liability policies of the appellant judgment debtor.

(3)        The aggregate net worth of the appellant judgment debtor.

(b)(d)   If the appellee in a civil action brought under any legal theory obtains a judgment directing the payment or expenditure of money in the amount of twenty five million dollars ($25,000,000) or more, and the appellant seeks a stay of execution of the judgment within the period of time during which the appellant has the right to pursue appellate review, including discretionary review and certiorari, the amount of the undertaking that the appellant is required to execute to stay execution of the judgment during the entire period of the appeal shall be twenty five million dollars ($25,000,000).

(c)(e)    If the appellee proves by a preponderance of the evidence that the appellant for whom the undertaking has been limited under subsection (b)(d) of this section is, for the purpose of evading the judgment, (i) dissipating its assets, (ii) secreting its assets, or (iii) diverting its assets outside the jurisdiction of the courts of North Carolina or the federal courts of the United States other than in the ordinary course of business, then the limitation in subsection (b)(d) of this section shall not apply and the appellant shall be required to make an undertaking in the full amount otherwise required by this section."

SECTION 2.  G.S. 1A-1, Rule 42(b), is amended by adding a new subdivision to read:

"(b)      Separate trials. -

(1)        The court may in furtherance of convenience or to avoid prejudice and shall for considerations of venue upon timely motion order a separate trial of any claim, cross-claim, counterclaim, or third-party claim, or of any separate issue or of any number of claims, cross-claims, counterclaims, third-party claims, or issues.

(2)        Upon motion of any party in an action that includes a claim commenced under Article 1G of Chapter 90 of the General Statutes involving a managed care entity as defined in G.S. 90-21.50, the court shall order separate discovery and a separate trial of any claim, cross-claim, counterclaim, or third-party claim against a physician or other medical provider.

(3)        Upon motion of any party in an action in tort wherein the plaintiff seeks damages exceeding one hundred fifty thousand dollars ($150,000), the court shall order separate trials for the issue of liability and the issue of damages, unless the court for good cause shown orders a single trial. Evidence relating solely to compensatory damages shall not be admissible until the trier of fact has determined that the defendant is liable. The same trier of fact that tries the issues relating to liability shall try the issues relating to damages."

SECTION 3.  G.S. 1A-1, Rule 9(j), reads as rewritten:

"(j)       Medical malpractice. - Any complaint alleging medical malpractice by a health care provider as defined in pursuant to G.S. 90-21.11G.S. 90-21.11(2)a. in failing to comply with the applicable standard of care under G.S. 90-21.12 shall be dismissed unless:

(1)        The pleading specifically asserts that the medical care has and all medical records pertaining to the alleged negligence that are available to the plaintiff after reasonable inquiry have been reviewed by a person who is reasonably expected to qualify as an expert witness under Rule 702 of the Rules of Evidence and who is willing to testify that the medical care did not comply with the applicable standard of care;

(2)        The pleading specifically asserts that the medical care has and all medical records pertaining to the alleged negligence that are available to the plaintiff after reasonable inquiry have been reviewed by a person that the complainant will seek to have qualified as an expert witness by motion under Rule 702(e) of the Rules of Evidence and who is willing to testify that the medical care did not comply with the applicable standard of care, and the motion is filed with the complaint; or

(3)        The pleading alleges facts establishing negligence under the existing common-law doctrine of res ipsa loquitur.

Upon motion by the complainant prior to the expiration of the applicable statute of limitations, a resident judge of the superior court for a judicial district in which venue for the cause of action is appropriate under G.S. 1-82 or, if no resident judge for that judicial district is physically present in that judicial district, otherwise available, or able or willing to consider the motion, then any presiding judge of the superior court for that judicial district may allow a motion to extend the statute of limitations for a period not to exceed 120 days to file a complaint in a medical malpractice action in order to comply with this Rule, upon a determination that good cause exists for the granting of the motion and that the ends of justice would be served by an extension. The plaintiff shall provide, at the request of the defendant, proof of compliance with this subsection through up to ten written interrogatories, the answers to which shall be verified by the expert required under this subsection. These interrogatories do not count against the interrogatory limit under Rule 33."

SECTION 4.  G.S. 8C-702(h) reads as rewritten:

"(h)       Notwithstanding subsection (b) of this section, in a medical malpractice action as defined in G.S. 90-21.11(2)b. against a hospital, or other health care or medical facility, a person may shall not give expert testimony on the appropriate standard of care as to administrative or other nonclinical issues if unless the person has substantial knowledge, by virtue of his or her training and experience, about the standard of care among hospitals, or health care or medical facilities, of the same type as the hospital, or health care or medical facility, whose actions or inactions are the subject of the testimony situated in the same or similar communities at the time of the alleged act giving rise to the cause of action."

SECTION 5.  G.S. 90-21.11 reads as rewritten:

" 90-21.11.  Definitions.

As usedThe following definitions apply in this Article,Article:

(1)        the term "health care provider" meansHealth care provider. -  without limitationWithout limitation, any of the following:

a.         any A person who pursuant to the provisions of Chapter 90 of the General Statutes is licensed, or is otherwise registered or certified to engage in the practice of or otherwise performs duties associated with any of the following: medicine, surgery, dentistry, pharmacy, optometry, midwifery, osteopathy, podiatry, chiropractic, radiology, nursing, physiotherapy, pathology, anesthesiology, anesthesia, laboratory analysis, rendering assistance to a physician, dental hygiene, psychiatry, psychology;psychiatry, or psychology.

b.         or aA hospital orhospital, a nursing home;home licensed under Chapter 131E of the General Statutes, or an adult care home licensed under Chapter 131D of the General Statutes.

c.         or anyAny other person who is legally responsible for the negligence of such person, hospital or nursing home;a person described by sub-subdivision a. of this subdivision, a hospital, a nursing home licensed under Chapter 131E of the General Statutes, or an adult care home licensed under Chapter 131D of the General Statutes.

d.         or anyAny other person acting at the direction or under the supervision of any of the foregoing persons, a person described by sub-subdivision a. of this subdivision, a hospital, or a nursing home.home licensed under Chapter 131E of the General Statutes, or an adult care home licensed under Chapter 131D of the General Statutes.

(2)        As used in this Article, the term "medical malpractice action" means Medical malpractice action. - Either of the following:

a.         aA civil action for damages for personal injury or death arising out of the furnishing or failure to furnish professional services in the performance of medical, dental, or other health care by a health care provider.

b.         A civil action against a hospital, a nursing home licensed under Chapter 131E of the General Statutes, or an adult care home licensed under Chapter 131D of the General Statutes for damages for personal injury or death, when the civil action (i) alleges a breach of administrative or corporate duties to the patient, including, but not limited to, allegations of negligent credentialing or negligent monitoring and supervision and (ii) arises from the same facts or circumstances as a claim under sub-subdivision a. of this subdivision."

SECTION 6.  G.S. 90-21.12 reads as rewritten:

" 90-21.12.  Standard of health care.

(a)        Except as provided in subsection (b) of this section, inIn any medical malpractice action as defined in G.S. 90-21.11(2)(a), action for damages for personal injury or death arising out of the furnishing or the failure to furnish professional services in the performance of medical, dental, or other health care, the defendant health care provider shall not be liable for the payment of damages unless the trier of the factsfact is satisfiedfinds by the greater weight of the evidence that the care of such health care provider was not in accordance with the standards of practice among members of the same health care profession with similar training and experience situated in the same or similar communities under the same or similar circumstances at the time of the alleged act giving rise to the cause of action; or in the case of a medical malpractice action as defined in G.S. 90-21.11(2)(b), the defendant health care provider shall not be liable for the payment of damages unless the trier of fact finds by the greater weight of the evidence that the action or inaction of such health care provider was not in accordance with the standards of practice among similar health care providers situated in the same or similar communities under the same or similar circumstances at the time of the alleged act giving rise to the cause of action.

(b)        In any medical malpractice action arising out of the furnishing or the failure to furnish professional services in the treatment of an emergency medical condition, as the term "emergency medical condition" is defined in 42 U.S.C. 1395dd(e)(1), the claimant must prove a violation of the standards of practice set forth in subsection (a) of this section by clear and convincing evidence."

SECTION 7.  Article 1B of Chapter 90 of the General Statutes is amended by adding the following new section to read:

" 90-21.19. Liability limit for noneconomic damages.

(a)        Except as otherwise provided in subsection (b) of this section, in any medical malpractice action in which the plaintiff is entitled to an award of noneconomic damages, the total amount of noneconomic damages for which judgment is entered against all defendants shall not exceed five hundred thousand dollars ($500,000). Judgment shall not be entered against any defendant for noneconomic damages in excess of five hundred thousand dollars ($500,000) for all claims brought by all parties arising out of the same professional services. On January 1 of every third year, beginning with January 1, 2014, the Administrative Office of the Courts shall reset the limitation on damages for noneconomic loss set forth in this subsection to be equal to five hundred thousand dollars ($500,000) times the ratio of the Consumer Price Index for November of the prior year to the Consumer Price Index for November 2011. The Administrative Office of the Courts shall inform the Revisor of Statutes of the reset limitation. The Revisor of Statutes shall publish this reset limitation as an editor's note to this section. In the event that any verdict or award of noneconomic damages stated pursuant to G.S. 90-21.19B exceeds these limits, the court shall modify the judgment as necessary to conform to the requirements of this subsection.

(b)        Notwithstanding subsection (a) of this section, there shall be no limit on the amount of noneconomic damages for which judgment may be entered against a defendant if the trier of fact finds both of the following:

(1)        The plaintiff suffered disfigurement, loss of use of part of the body, permanent injury or death.

(2)        The defendant's acts or failures, which are the proximate cause of the plaintiff's injuries, were committed in reckless disregard of the rights of others, grossly negligent, fraudulent, intentional or with malice.

(c)        The following definitions apply in this section:

(1)        Consumer Price Index. - The Consumer Price Index - All Urban Consumers, for the South urban area, as published by the Bureau of Labor Statistics of the United States Department of Labor.

(2)        Noneconomic damages. - Damages to compensate for pain, suffering, emotional distress, loss of consortium, inconvenience, and any other nonpecuniary compensatory damage. "Noneconomic damages" does not include punitive damages as defined in G.S. 1D-5.

(3)        Same professional services. - The transactions, occurrences, or series of transactions or occurrences alleged to have caused injury to the health care provider's patient.

(d)        Any award of damages in a medical malpractice action shall be stated in accordance with G.S. 90-21.19B. If a jury is determining the facts, the court shall not instruct the jury with respect to the limit of noneconomic damages under subsection (a) of this section, and neither the attorney for any party nor a witness shall inform the jury or potential members of the jury panel of that limit."

SECTION 8.  Article 1B of Chapter 90 of the General Statutes is amended by adding the following new section to read:

" 90-21.19B.  Verdicts and awards of damages in medical malpractice actions; form.

In any malpractice action, any verdict or award of damages, if supported by the evidence, shall indicate specifically what amount, if any, is awarded for noneconomic damages. If applicable, the court shall instruct the jury on the definition of noneconomic damages under G.S. 90-21.19(b)."

SECTION 9.  G.S. 1-17 reads as rewritten:

" 1-17.  Disabilities.

(a)        A person entitled to commence an action who is under a disability at the time the cause of action accrued may bring his or her action within the time limited in this Subchapter, after the disability is removed, except in an action for the recovery of real property, or to make an entry or defense founded on the title to real property, or to rents and services out of the real property, when the person must commence his or her action, or make the entry, within three years next after the removal of the disability, and at no time thereafter.

For the purpose of this section, a person is under a disability if the person meets one or more of the following conditions:

(1)        The person is within the age of 18 years.

(2)        The person is insane.

(3)        The person is incompetent as defined in G.S. 35A-1101(7) or (8).

(a1)      For those persons under a disability on January 1, 1976, as a result of being imprisoned on a criminal charge, or in execution under sentence for a criminal offense, the statute of limitations shall commence to run and no longer be tolled from January 1, 1976.

(b)        Notwithstanding the provisions of subsection (a) of this section, and except as otherwise provided in subsection (c) of this section, an action on behalf of a minor for malpractice arising out of the performance of or failure to perform professional services shall be commenced within the limitations of time specified in G.S. 1-15(c), except that if those time limitations expire before the minor attains the full age of 19 years, the action may be brought before the minor attains the full age of 19 years.

(c)        Notwithstanding the provisions of subsection (a) and (b) of this section, an action on behalf of a minor for injuries alleged to have resulted from malpractice arising out of a health care provider's performance of or failure to perform professional services shall be commenced within the limitations of time specified in G.S. 1-15(c), except as follows:

(1)        If the time limitations specified in G.S. 1-15(c) expire before the minor attains the full age of 10 years, the action may be brought any time before the minor attains the full age of 10 years.

(2)        If the time limitations in G.S. 1-15(c) have expired and before a minor reaches the full age of 18 years a court has entered judgment or consent order under the provisions of Chapter 7B of the General Statutes finding that said minor is an abused or neglected juvenile as defined in G.S. 7B-101, the medical malpractice action shall be commenced within three years from the date of such judgment or consent order, or before the minor attains the full age of 10 years, whichever is later.

(3)        If the time limitations in G.S. 1-15(c) have expired and a minor is in legal custody of the State, a county, or an approved child placing agency as defined in G.S. 131D-10.2, the medical malpractice action shall be commenced within one year after the minor is no longer in such legal custody, or before the minor attains the full age of 10 years, whichever is later."

SECTION 10.  Severability. - If the provisions of Section 7 of this act are declared to be unconstitutional or otherwise invalid by final decision of a court of competent jurisdiction, then Section 8 of this act is repealed, but the invalidity does not affect other provisions or applications of this act that can be given effect without the invalid provisions.  If any other provision of this act or its application to any person or circumstance is held invalid, the remainder of this act or the application of the provision to other persons or circumstances is not affected.


SECTION 11.  Sections 5, 6 and 9 of this act become effective October 1, 2011, and apply to causes of actions arising on or after that date. The remainder of this act becomes effective October 1, 2011, and applies to actions commenced on or after that date.

In the General Assembly read three times and ratified this the 13th day of June, 2011.

 

 

                                                    s/  Walter H. Dalton

                                                         President of the Senate

 

 

                                                    s/  Dale R. Folwell

                                                         Speaker Pro Tempore of the House of Representatives

 

 

                                                                        VETO   Beverly E. Perdue

                                                                         Governor

 

 

Became law notwithstanding the objections of the Governor, 5:48 p.m. this 25th day of July, 2011.

 

                                                                    s/  Denise Weeks

                                                                         House Principal Clerk