Yet another bill aimed at limiting the rights of injured people is under consideration in the N.C. General Assembly.
N.C. Senate Bill 648, sponsored by Sen. Brent Jackson, R-Sampson, but most likely influenced by the pro-business American Legislative Exchange Council, would make it harder for people who been injured by a defective product to sue.
The bill’s sponsors say SB 648 is meant to reign in so-called frivolous lawsuits. But, as we’ve reported before, the whole notion of the “frivolous lawsuit” is a myth created by big business and the insurance industry to protect their profits at the expense of people who have been seriously and severely injured by defective products and corporate negligence.
The documentary “Hot Coffee,” which is about the infamous McDonald’s coffee lawsuit is an eye-opening look at several such “frivolous lawsuit.” The McDonald’s victim, Stella Liebeck was severely burned and required multiple surgeries because of her injuries, and McDonald’s had ignored hundreds of complaints that its coffee was hot enough to cause scalding, third-degree burns. Her lawsuit was anything but frivolous, even though she became a national punchline.
Senate Bill 648 is yet another example of legislators putting business interests ahead of people. If this legislation passes and becomes law, it will be a terrible injustice to North Carolinians. An injured person’s right to justice and access to the civil court system would be severely limited under this proposed law.
As WRAL reports:
The bill would limit a company’s liability if it developed a product under government-approved guidelines. Jackson gave the example of a drug given approval by the FDA.
Sen. Tamara Barringer, R-Wake, said the FDA instance might be a good example, but she said she believed the bill would apply to any number of products.
“I think the bill is far broader,” she said.
Jackson acknowledged it was.
“We did make the bill broad to cover as many industries as possible,” he said.
He argued that, if the government oversaw the development and design of a product, a company should not be held liable for abiding to those standards.
“That should grant them some type of immunity from frivolous lawsuits,” Jackson said.
Barringer replied, however, that this would also limit lawsuits when there might be a product recall or some instance that the government had not authorized.
“This would also prohibit regular lawsuits – lawsuits that would be meritorious,” she said.
The bill also would impose a six-month waiting period for any lawsuits involving exposure to asbestos or silica dust, both of which cause life-threatening lung diseases. Most plaintiffs in these types of lawsuits are extremely ill, and many would not survive the six-month waiting period.
Senate Bill 648 has been referred to Judiciary I and the Finance committees of the N.C. Senate. Please reach out to members of these committees and tell them to vote against Senate Bill 648.