Med Mal Cap on Noneconomic Damages Readjusted

The Office of State Budget and Management (OSBM) has reset the limitation of damages for noneconomic losses in medical malpractice actions pursuant to N.C. Gen. Stat. § 90-21.19. Effective January 1, 2023, the cap will be $656,730.

When initially passed in 2011, N.C. Gen. Stat. § 90-21.19 capped the judgment of noneconomic damages against any defendant in a medical malpractice action at $500,000. Every three years, the OSBM resets the limitation on damages based on inflation. The prior rate set by OSBM was $562,338. The jump from 2020 to 2023 is substantially higher than any prior increase of the limitation.

Juries are not instructed that there is a limitation on noneconomic damages. If a jury awards noneconomic damages in excess of the limitation, courts must modify the judgment to conform with the cap.

Does the cap always apply in medical malpractice actions?

No, there are some circumstances in which the limitation on noneconomic damages does not apply.

Under N.C. Gen. Stat. § 90-21.19, the limit on noneconomic damages does not apply when 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; and
  2. The defendant was reckless; grossly negligent; or acted fraudulently, intentionally, or with malice.
What are noneconomic damages?

Noneconomic damages include:

  • pain and suffering,
  • emotional distress,
  • scar disfigurement,
  • loss of consortium,
  • or -loss of enjoyment of life.

Unlike economic damages (such as lost wages and medical expenses), there is no formula or specific evidentiary basis for determining the value of noneconomic damages.

The information contained in this article is of a general nature and is not intended as, nor should it be relied upon for, legal advice. No action should be taken in reliance upon the information contained in this article without obtaining the advice of an attorney.

About the Author

Brittany D. Levine

An attorney at Young Moore, Brittany focuses her practice on complex civil litigation and health care compliance. Within the health care industry, she advises and defends providers and professionals of long term care facilities and counsels health care providers in compliance matters involving healthcare privacy, HIPAA, and breach notification and reporting requirements.  Read more 

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