Illinois Judge Throws Out Med Mal Damages Caps

Business Insurance
Monday, November 19, 2007

CHICAGO—A Cook County judge's ruling that a key Illinois tort reform measure capping punitive damages in medical malpractice cases is unconstitutional will be appealed to the state's high court, lawyers for a hospital and a doctor say.

In the case, the LeBron family sued Gottlieb Memorial Hospital and Dr. Levi-D'Ancona, alleging that the physician failed to respond quickly to complications during their daughter Abigaile's October 2005 birth and, as a result, the child was born with severe brain damage, according to court documents.
Cook County Circuit Judge Diane Larsen in Chicago granted the LeBrons' request and ruled that caps on med mal awards violate the Illinois Constitution's separation of powers clause, which says the legislature cannot interfere with judges and juries in determining fair damages.

Jason Held, a Chicago-based staff director for the Center for Justice & Democracy, an anti-tort reform group, said capping noneconomic damages is unconstitutional, adding that such caps are "anti-family, anti-patient and anti-Illinois."
"If you look at the Illinois data from the (Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation Division of Insurance), you will see that there isn't a doctor crisis in Illinois anymore, that there has been a steady increase of them (in the state) over the past 20 years," said Mr. Held. "There are counter arguments to this, but I don't see this mass exodus of doctors."

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