Bill would expand suit damages for grief and mental anguish

Belleville News-Democrat
Tuesday, May 1, 2007

Metro-east physicians and hospital executives are nervously watching the progress of a legislative proposal to allow juries to award damages to plaintiffs for "grief, sorrow and mental anguish" in wrongful death cases.
A bill setting up this new category of damage awards, in addition to the category already in place for "pain and suffering," cleared the Illinois House on Friday, and now awaits a vote in the Senate.
Opponents of the measure argue that it would undermine the progress achieved as a result of the tort reform law passed in late 2005. That landmark statute -- which caps non-economic damages awarded against physicians at $500,000, and hospitals at $1 million -- is credited with the lowering of medical malpractice insurance premiums, resulting in a return of physicians to Illinois , especially hard hit areas such as the metro-east.

But Joanne Doroshow, executive director of the Center for Justice and Democracy in New York City , contended that House Bill 1798 would have no impact on insurance costs.
"What this does, it is allowing an appropriate kind of damage for a jury to consider that otherwise they've been prohibited from doing," said Doroshow, whose group has been funded in the past by trial attorneys. "It's not going to have any impact other than to make the victims feel they are more fairly treated under the law."
Such a law is acutely needed in civil cases involving the deaths of children, for whom it is impossible to make a case for the awarding of economic damages, she said.
"It's important to allow juries to get through the evidence and make decisions for damages in these kinds of cases," she said.
Doroshow predicted that the caps on non-economic damages contained in the 2005 tort reform law would take precedence over House Bill 1798 if it is passed into law.

For a copy of the complete article, contact CJ&D.

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