A physician whose wife was disfigured in an operating room fire has issued a press release and a television ad protesting North Carolina Senate Bill 33, which limits the caps on pain and suffering regardless of whether they resulted in disfigurement, mutilation, loss of limb, paralysis, pain, suffering, blindness or death.  

The ad and press release are available at “Let Juries Decide” – a grassroots website that advocates letting juries decide on damages rather than politicians.

The physician, Dr. John Faulkner, described how his wife had gone in for a simple outpatient procedure when a fire broke out in the operating room, causing severe disfigurement. In a letter to lawmakers Faulkner wrote, “No one can put a ‘cap’ on my wife’s pain and disfigurement — so how can the legislature put a cap on what it’s worth? … Why do you think it’s fairer for legislators to decide rather than juries?”

The bill, which sets a cap of $250,000 on damages for disfigurement, mutilation, loss of limb, paralysis, pain, suffering and death, is currently the subject of negotiations between the House and Senate. Other doctors, including the two physicians in the legislature — Senator Bill Purcell (D) and Senator Eric Mansfield (D) — support a House amendment that excludes severe physical injuries from the cap on damages.

The “Let Juries Decide” website argues that the cap would be especially harmful to injured children, homemakers and the elderly, who would be able to prove only very limited economic damages.

The site also argues that the cap on damages violates the North Carolina Constitution in that if a jury awards a plaintiff more than $250,000 in damages, the judge will overrule the jury determination pursuant to the legislative cap, depriving the plaintiff of a jury’s verdict.