A bill that would dramatically change how courts consider negligence lawsuits drew sharp debate Wednesday night.
The bill would alter a part of the state tort law that says a person cannot collect any money if they contribute in any way to their injury. The bill would replace that doctrine that allows civil courts to consider the degree to which a person was at fault for his or her own injury. Any judgements awarded would be reduced by that factor.
Rep. Rick Glazier, a Fayetteville Democrat and a sponsor of the bill said a friend of his son's rode home as a passenger in a car driven by an intoxicated person. A car wreck killed the passenger.
"Because he got in the car with him...his family never got a dime," Glazier said. That is unfair. That is fundamentally unfair to every citizen in the state."
Opponents said the bill was an effort to cater to plaintiff's lawyers and that the change is unnecessary. The law could raise insurance rates, opponents said.
"This House has voted this bill down every time since 1983," said Rep. Jim Crawford, an Oxford Democrat.
The bill passed a key vote 67 to 50. It will have to be voted on again before it goes to the Senate.
Update: Later in the session, Rep. Johnathan Rhyne Jr., a Lincolnton Republican, withdrew his objection to taking the final vote on the bill Wednesday. Rhyne said he changed his mind because Glazier agreed to work on some of the oppositions' concerns as it moved through the Senate.
The bill cleared the House 73 to 42 and moves to the Senate.