North Carolina General Statutes Chapter 90. Medicine and Allied Occupations § 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)  1 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 Office of State Budget and Management 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 Office of State Budget and Management 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.

1 Editor’s note:  In a letter dated December 20, 2016, the Office of State Budget and Management (OSBM) notified the Office of the Revisor of Statutes that the OSBM was resetting the limitation on damages for noneconomic losses related to medical malpractice to $533,409, effective January 1, 2017, in accordance with G.S. 90-21.19(a).An email dated April 15, 2014 from the North Carolina Administrative Office of the Courts to the Revisor of Statutes provides:  “Based on the methodology required by the G.S. 90-21.19, the NCAOC calculates the reset limitation to be $515,000, effective January 1, 2014.  Please confirm that NCAOC has correctly calculated the reset limitation in accordance with the methodology required by the General Assembly, and that you agree the reset limitation is $515,000.  This email serves to fulfill NCAOC’s obligation to provide notification pursuant to the statute.”

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