Victims and trial lawyers would have preferred veto

By Ann Knef | Aug 26, 2005

'Patients for Justice' Kathy Ghawi shows pictures of her husband who had the wrong side of his brain operated on.

ITLA's Judy Cates--staunch caps opponent

For some, enactment of medical liability reform is a cruel reality.

Victims' group, the Center for Justice & Democracy--which held a protest hours before Governor Blagojevich made it official--says it pleaded for a veto.

The controversial reform package, which caps physicians' liability at $500,000 and hospitals' at $1 million, passed the Illinois legislature three months ago, but the governor stalled enacting the measure until the day before it would have gone into effect anyway.

It's a "cruel bill that will be devastating for many Illinois families," stated a CJ&D press release.

"In addition to harming patients, the caps in this bill won't even help doctors with their insurance rates," said Amber Hard, CJ&D-Illinois staff director.

The legislation's greatest foe--the Illinois Trial Lawyers Association--say it made a failed 11th hour veto pitch to the governor. The group's executive committee, including Metro-East attorney Judy Cates of Belleville, reportedly met with Blagojevich last week.

ITLA rank-and-file personal injury lawyers, who have collectively donated millions to Blagojevich's campaign coffers, are vowing to cut ties with the governor.

The lawyers' group, which had been promised by the governor that he would not sign a caps bill, was a major financier of Blagojevich's campaign in 2002. Blagojevich repeatedly told ITLA he was "morally opposed" to caps.

Locally, State Rep. Jay Hoffman (D-Collinsville) may feel the brunt of ITLA's ire. Hoffman, a trial attorney, voted in favor of the caps bill. He is a consultant with the Lakin Law Firm in Wood River.

"Why would I give money to someone who would hurt me," said an ITLA member who claims that sentiment is widespread in the organization.

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