A Senate judiciary committee has stripped out the most controversial part of a bill aimed at restricting lawsuits. The bill that heads to the Senate floor for a vote this afternoon is minus the section giving strong protection from product liability lawsuits to drugs that have been approved by the FDA.
That's a far cry from the original version of the bill, written by Rep. Jonathan Rhyne, a Lincoln County Republican, which would have granted protection to any product that had been approved by a government agency.
Another controversial provision in the bill that was eliminated before it left the House would have taken 75 percent of any award for punitive damages over $100,000 and put it in a state fund.
Trial lawyers are still unhappy with the provision that requires juries be told how much of a plaintiff's medical expenses have been covered by insurance. This is HB542.
Meanwhile, new concerns have arisen about SB33, the medical malpractice bill that was sent to the governor last week. No one noticed at the time that the version that came out of the Republican-dominated conference committee actually broadened protection for emergency medical treatment -- beyond just care in emergency rooms. Rhyne told the House that the bill that came out of the conference committee did not change the narrow focus on emergency room doctors only. He portrayed it as a victory for the House version of the bill.
A new section has been added to HB542 to address that, after the governor's office raised concerns, Sen. Pete Brunstetter, a Republican from Forsyth County, said on the Senate floor today.
The Senate voted 43-5 to tentatively approve HB542. It remains on the calendar for a final vote later, and will then return to the House.