Illinois Medical Malpractice–Supreme Court Considers Constitutionality of Non-Economic Caps

By February 29, 2008Medical Malpractice

The Illinois Supreme Court is set to consider the constitutionality of damage caps passed by the legislature. Last November, Cook County Circuit Judge Diane J. Larsen overturned an Illinois law that capped damages in malpractice cases. Her decision was appealed by the hospital. Next month, briefs and friend-of-the-court briefs debating the constitutionality of tort caps are expected to be filed with the Illinois Supreme Court.
As I noted in an earlier blog entry, the underlying lawsuit was brought on behalf of Abigaile LeBron, a girl who was born with a permanent brain injury. Her mother sued Gottlieb Memorial Hospital and others alleging medical negligence. The suit also challenged a 2005 law that capped pain and suffering damages at $500,000 for doctors and $1 million for hospitals alleging it violated the Illinois Constitution.
Illinois is a key battleground in the fight over caps in tort cases. Advocates of the limits claim that they are needed to keep doctors and hospitals in business. Opponents argue that when the carelessness of a doctor or hospital leads to injuries – especially severe ones like Abigaile’s permanent brain injuries – the victims deserve to be compensated and the doctors and hospitals must be held responsible.
Because of the importance of the case, it is expected that a number of amicus briefs will be filed with the Illinois Supreme Court.
Illinois isn’t the only state with caps. Caps have either been proposed or enacted in all 50 states. In Missouri, the caps are extremely oppressive, limiting non-economic damages to a mere $350,000.