North Carolina, in addition to Virginia, Maryland, Alabama, and the District of Columbia, has retained the common law defense of contributory negligence, which bars recovery in a tort action if the plaintiff also contributed to the harm he or she suffered as a result of the defendant’s negligence. The state’s trial bar has made numerous attempts to change the law, over the objections of the business community.
“Insurers believe this is the wrong time to change to a comparative fault system,” said Raymond Farmer, AIA assistant vice president. “We are in the midst of a recession. The last state to change from contributory negligence to comparative was South Carolina; currently the liability rates in South Carolina are on average 38 percent higher than in North Carolina. AIA and other interested parties have been able to limit the bill’s immediate impact by delaying the effective date and making it applicable only to events occurring after that date. Also, recovery would be barred if the negligence of the plaintiff is equal to or greater than the negligence of the other party. On the positive side, HB 813 does make improvements to the joint and several liability law, although these improvements do not go far enough."
Debate on the legislation now moves to the Senate.