Illinois medical malpractice cap: Illinois Supreme Court strikes down medical malpractice caps – chicagotribune.com

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This just in from the Chicago Tribune.  The Illinois Supreme Court, on the rationale that the legislatively created cap on non-economic damages in medical malpractice cases violated the ‘separation of powers’ provisions of the constitution, has struck down the law applying caps to such damages.  See the report in the Tribune – Illinois medical malpractice cap: Illinois Supreme Court to rule on medical malpractice cap – chicagotribune.com.

Under the now-struck-down 2005 law of that state, there was a cap on non-economic damages of $500,000 in awards against physicians and a $1,000,000 cap on such damages for awards against hospitals.

As reported by the Tribune:

Justices writing (the majority opinion) said they were not persuaded by arguments used in other states. “That ‘everybody is doing it,” is hardly a litmus test for the constitutionality of the statute,” Justices writing for the majority opinion said.

Further, Justices said that what the statute allows for amounts to a “legislative remittur.” Chief Justice Thomas Fitzgerald delivered the judgment for the seven-member court and was joined in the opinion by Justices Charles Freeman, Thomas Kilbride and Anne Burke. Justice Robert Thomas took no part in the decision, the ruling said.

Justices Lloyd Karmeier and Rita Garman dissented on certain points of the decision and expressed sympathy to providers of medical care, citing President Obama’s recent address to a joint session of Congress that the justices said “admonished” the nation’s collective failure to enact health care reform.

“We have no business telling the General Assembly that it has exceeded its constitutional power if we must ignore the constitutional constraints on our own authority to do so,” Karmeier wrote.

From the history of the Illinois’ legislature’s ongoing battle with the Illinois Supreme Court on this issue of ‘caps,’ there seems little doubt that the legislature will once again go about the task of attempting to re-write the law so that ‘caps’ once again become viable in that state.  Apparently, that will be just the ‘top’ of the next inning on this issue.

Here’s a link to the court’s ruling.

Such rulings always raise the issue of what effect does such have on previously litigated cases in which awards in excess of the cap were reduced to meet the cap(s)?  What advice was given to those plaintiffs, who accepted the reduction of their awards?  How does this ruling affect the resetting of claims reserves by the insurers and self-insured trusts, who set their reserves based on the existence of a ‘cap’ on non-economic damages? This is just a sampling of the myriad issues that will now come to be.

I have very little doubt that this ‘separation of powers’ argument will spread like wild fire throughout the courts of this country.  This is definitely worth keeping an eye on over the ensuing months and years.  Will this have any effect on the current health care reform bills before the United States Congress?  Stay tuned!

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