Negligent Collaboration

The Atlanta Journal Constitution had an article about an archaic law in North Carolina. The 90 year old gave immunity to nurses. Fortunately, the North Carolina Supreme Court overturned that legal favoritism. The Court ruled nurses can be held liable by a jury when they harm patients. Even if they claim they were just following a doctors’ orders.

Byrd Immunity

The case involved Defendants violating safe standards in the administration of anesthesia causing injuries to three year old Amaya Gullatte. A tragic case.

Defendant nurse claimed protection based on Byrd v. Marion General Hospital, 202 N.C. 337 (1932) which arbitrarily claimed that nurses do not owe a duty of care in the treatment of patients while working under the supervision of a physician licensed to practice medicine in North Carolina. Id. at 341–43.

The trial court excluded the proffered testimony of an expert witness concerning CRNA VanSoestbergen’s alleged breach of the applicable professional standard of care.

Plaintiffs contend that Byrd conflicts with a pertinent statutory provision and thus should be overruled. Specifically, plaintiffs reference N.C.G.S. § 90-21.12(a), which states, in relevant part:

“[I]n any medical malpractice action as defined in [N.C.]G.S. [§] 90-21.11(2)(a), the defendant health care provider shall not be liable for the payment of damages unless the trier of fact finds by the greater weight of the evidence that the care of such health care provider was not in accordance with the standards of practice among members of the same health care profession with similar training and experience
situated in the same or similar communities under the same or similar circumstances at the time of the alleged act giving rise to the cause of action . . . .”

N.C.G.S. § 90-21.12(a) (2021).

However, pursuant to N.C.G.S. §90-171.20(7), registered nurses now have the ability, inter alia, to collaborate with other health care providers in determining the appropriate health care for a patient; to implement the treatment and pharmaceutical regimen prescribed by any person authorized by state law to prescribe the regimen; and to plan, initiate, deliver, and evaluate appropriate nursing acts.


Justice Michael Morgan wrote for the majority in the 3-2 opinion:

“Due to the evolution of the medical profession’s recognition of the increased specialization and independence of nurses in the treatment of patients over the course of the ensuing ninety years since this Court’s issuance of the Byrd opinion, we determine that it is timely and appropriate to overrule Byrd as it is applied to the facts of this case”