In a recent North Carolina appellate decision, the defendants appealed from a motion to dismiss on the basis of public official immunity. A child and his mother sued the defendants for negligence, gross negligence, negligent infliction of emotional distress, medical malpractice, and punitive damages. They alleged that after the child was born, the defendants, who were employees of the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services, followed screening procedures for newborns that they knew wouldn’t be sufficient for older infants. As a result, they missed diagnosing a metabolism error in the child that later resulted in an emergency that caused him permanent, severe brain damage.
The defendants moved to dismiss and strike, claiming that the court couldn’t hear the lawsuit because they were being sued as government employees, and the State hadn’t waived sovereign immunity, so as public officials, they were entitled to immunities provided to public officials.
On the hearing date, the plaintiffs argued that they’d amended the complaint to show they were suing the defendants as individuals rather than as public officials. The court granted the plaintiffs’ amended motion to amend their complaint again. It denied the motions to dismiss. The plaintiffs amended their complaint, and the defendants answered. They appealed the orders denying the dismissals.