About a month ago, the Illinois Supreme Court heard oral arguments in a case that could have a dramatic effect on Illinois patients hurt by medical mistakes, as well as my own practice as a southern Illinois medical malpractice lawyer. In Lebron v. Gottlieb Memorial Hospital, the court is considering whether caps on non-economic damages in medical malpractice cases are consistent with the state Constitution. It is expected to rule this spring. The caps, which max out at $500,000 for individual medical professionals and $1 million for hospitals, were put in effect in 2005 as part of the Illinois Medical Liability Reform Law.
The case centers on the family of Abigaile Lebron, a three-year-old girl who was severely and irreversibly brain-damaged at birth. Her family’s lawsuit alleges that the injuries are a result of injuries from substandard care she received at the hospital where she was born. The damages caps mean that while the family may recover all of their past and future medical costs, they may collect only $500,000 in non-economic damages — compensation for physical pain, emotional anguish and the loss of the child’s love and care — from the doctor they believe to be responsible. In Missouri, their non-economic damages would have been capped even lower, at just $350,000.
Non-economic damages are very important in Illinois and Missouri birth injury lawsuits like this one. In most medical malpractice claims, the plaintiff is an adult whose losses include a loss of income, sometimes millions over a lifetime. In a claim involving a baby or a child, however, there is rarely a loss of income. The majority of the losses in a birth injury or child medical malpractice case are emotional losses — the parents’ loss of their hopes and dreams for the child and the child’s loss of a normal, healthy life. These are devastating and very real injuries, but they’re not financial injuries. In these cases, a cap on non-economic damages substantially impairs the family’s right to see justice done.
We trust our doctors to make the right decisions to care for us — and most of them do. But when they don’t, patients have the right to sue over the irreversible physical disabilities that their medical negligence can cause. Carey, Danis & Lowe handles medical malpractice claims and birth injury lawsuits in Missouri and southern Illinois. If your family has been harmed by medical negligence and you’d like to talk with us about your case and your options, please contact us online or call us at 1-877-678-3400 today for a free consultation.