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RALEIGH, NC (AP) — North Carolina lawmakers are starting what promises to be a long fight over medical malpractice laws as insurance and medical services companies square off against law firms.

A Senate committee opened discussions Tuesday on legislation that includes limiting damages for pain and suffering to $250,000.

Courts in other states have found such limits to be illegal. Georgia’s Supreme Court ruled unanimously last year that a $350,000 cap on non-economic damages was unconstitutional.

A bill signed into law in 2007 capped monetary damages in negligence cases at $1 million, but only for those who agreed to go to binding arbitration. Few people have taken advantage of the option.

Senators plan to hear from people on both sides of the issue Thursday.

(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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