Medical malpractice lawsuits filed in Madison County will now go through mediation if a newly created judicial review panel gives the go-ahead, according to an announcement released Monday by Chief Judge Ann Callis.
The Third Judicial Circuit's nine circuit judges also set restrictions on motions to dismiss involving certificates of merit.
Judges adopted the rules June 18, based on recommendations of the circuit's Medical-Legal Committee.
"In order to alleviate the burden to the parties of protracted litigation in medical malpractice actions, to further the administration of justice, and to prevent unnecessary delay, the court hereby implements the following local rules," the preface to the rules stated.
The new rules include:
RULE 1. MANDATORY MEDIATION IN MALPRACTICE CASES
A) From this date forward, the parties will be required to mediate all pending healing arts malpractice actions, within 90 days of the depositions of all Plaintiffs and Defendants, or their legal representatives, in said actions.
B) The court will set a deadline for said depositions at the Initial Case Management Conference. Also, at the Initial Case Management Conference, all issues regarding, service, Certificates of Merit, and early settlement possibilities will be addressed by the court. All parties will be required to attend mediation, act in good faith, and have persons present with authority to negotiate and enter into settlement agreements.
C) A circuit or associate judge of Madison County, who is not assigned to be the trial judge, and who has been trained and certified as a mediator, shall serve as the mediator, unless all parties agree to select an alternative, compensated mediator. The judge - mediated cases will be handled at no cost to the parties. The mediator, whether or not a judge, is required to file a report to the trial judge indicating whether or not the parties acted in good faith during mediation. Said mediation program will be implemented in compliance with Supreme Court Rule 99.
RULE 2. CIRCUIT REVIEW PANEL
All healing arts malpractice cases will be reviewed by a panel of circuit judges to enhance the advancement of the disposition of cases, and to refer all applicable cases to mediation. This panel will meet once a month, and, if necessary, set said cases for a status conference within 30 days of review, whether mediation is recommended or not.
RULE 3. MOTIONS TO DISMISS INVOLVING CERTIFICATES OF MERIT
For all healing arts malpractice causes accruing prior to August 25, 2005, it shall be the rule of this court that, if the court grants a Motion to Dismiss without prejudice in any such case, due to a Certificate of Merit's lack of compliance with 735 ILCS 5/2-622, the plaintiff shall have 45 days to file an amended certificate to conform to the law. Further continuances will not be granted, and the case will be dismissed with prejudice, unless justice requires otherwise.
Third Judicial Circuit Medical-Legal Committee members included Circuit Judges Dave Hylla, who served as the chairman, Circuit Judge Ann Callis, and Associate Judges Steve Stobbs and Tom Chapman.
The committee, which was formed in the spring to address malpractice issues specific to Madison County, met with several members of the legal and medical community for the past several months including doctors from the Illinois State Medical Society and Anderson Hospital.
The committee also met with both plaintiff and defense lawyers who specialize in medical malpractice law including, Tom Keefe, John Hopkins, John Papa, Lisa Franke, Mark Levy, Mike Nester and Tom Falb.
Callis also appointed Circuit Judges John Knight, Barbara Crowder and Dave Hylla to serve on the Medical Malpractice Review Panel.
The judges will review medical malpractice cases filed in Madison County, pursuant to "Rule 2."
"This is the culmination of months of dialogue our committee has had with the people who are involved in malpractice cases in our community," Hylla commented.
Callis added, "Our primary goal is to better serve all people of Madison County, and we hopefully have accomplished that, by adopting this rule."