Here we go again

The Madison County Record Nov. 23, 2008, 8:35am

The people have spoken. It's the third time. But Illinois trial lawyers don't want to listen.

The legislature keeps passing, and our governors keep signing into law, "pain and suffering" jury verdict caps in medical malpractice lawsuits.

Yet the trial bar of this state keeps convincing their brethren in robes to overturn it; to negate the will of the people, under the guise of a self-serving spin that a clause in our state constitution disallows caps.

It's a lawyer thing; we lay folks just don't understand.

So the question is once more before our State Supreme Court, which heard oral arguments last week. To keep caps, or to squash them? A decision looms, and as much as any other this year, it could have a major impact on all of us.

The legion of lawyers who want caps squashed contend they are standing up for empathetic plaintiffs. They say the fight isn't about them.

But it is. It always was. Juries still can make a worthy plaintiff whole. But caps make it harder for plaintiff's lawyers to become generationally-wealthy tycoons.

That's what this fight is about-- whether personal injury lawyers can use their privileged position with our court system to make a few million, versus tens of millions or more.

The legislature voted for caps because it understands that when uncapped awards are made, the money doesn't appear out of thin air. And it isn't doctors or hospitals, but patients-- particularly in places like Southern Illinois--who end up bearing the cost, being forced to drive hours to receive specialty medical care no longer offered near home.

Thus we have caps, which as economists say, aren't a solution but a trade-off.

If Illinois citizens want reliable access to surgeons or specialists in places other than Chicago, then this state can't be the Wild West for lawyers looking to sue doctors and hospitals. Everyone can't have everything.

By overturning caps laws twice in the past, our High Court has pretended that we can. And in the process, it forcibly has mandated the image of our state.

The Land of Lincoln: better for lawyers, worse for doctors. Depending upon the court's next ruling, it appears there's nothing any of you can do about it.

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