Constitutional Law

Ill. Supreme Court Strikes Down Caps on Med-Mal Awards

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A divided Illinois Supreme Court has struck down caps on medical malpractice awards in an opinion today that showed little regard for the practice in other states.

The opinion (PDF) said the tort reform law interferes with the judiciary’s power to assess and reduce verdicts, violating the separation of powers clause in the Illinois Constitution. The Chicago Tribune has the story.

The 2005 law caps noneconomic damages at $500,000 in suits against doctors, and $1 million in suits against hospitals.

Lawyers defending the law had argued that Illinois’ damage caps were in the range set by other states. But the court said the practice elsewhere doesn’t control its analysis of the Illinois Constitution.

“That ‘everybody is doing it,’ is hardly a litmus test for the constitutionality of the statute,” the opinion said.

ABA President Carolyn Lamm commended the court’s reasoning. “The American Bar Association has spent more than 30 years studying legislative efforts at the federal and state levels to impose statutory limits on the ability of victims of negligent medical care to recover for noneconomic losses, including pain and suffering, ” she said in a statement (PDF). “We have consistently concluded that no limit should be adopted to deny a plaintiff in medical malpractice cases full compensation.”

Updated at 5:18 p.m. to include Lamm’s statement.

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