Justices chose trial lawyers over patients, ICJL says

Ann Knef Feb. 9, 2010, 10:55am


The four Illinois Supreme Court Justices who voted to overturn the state's caps on damages law last week chose trial lawyers over patients, according to the Illinois Civil Justice League (ICJL).

"They didn't have to rule the way they did," said ICJL President Ed Murnane on Tuesday. "Clearly, they were responding to the wishes of the trial lawyers."

Murnane said the state already has a reputation for rampant lawsuit abuse, and that the high court's decision "will only make it worse."

He is urging citizens to fight back by signing a petition that expresses disapproval at the decision of Justices Thomas Fitzgerald, Anne Burke, Charles Freeman, and Thomas Kilbride.

Justices Lloyd Karmeier and Rita Garman dissented in the case. Justice Robert Thomas did not participate in the decision.

In the 4-2 decision, the Supreme Court found that the 2005 law that capped non-economic medical malpractice damages -- such as pain and suffering -- at $500,000 for doctors and $1 million for hospitals impeded juries' constitutional powers to award settlements in civil cases.

A Democratic-led state Legislature passed the law, aimed at lowering medical malpractice insurance rates that were blamed for driving doctors out of the state.

"Our objective is to make sure the public understands that if we go through a doctor shortage or access to medicine is limited...you look at this decision," Murnane said.

Murnane said the petition drive, which comes just days after the decision was announced, was timed while the matter was still fresh in peoples' minds.

He said the petition signatures would be forwarded to the Illinois Supreme Court and to the Illinois General Assembly "to send a strong message that the people of Illinois want these lawsuit reforms and demand immediate action to fix this crisis."

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