Caps are unconstitutional, Illinois Supreme Court rules

By Ann Knef | Feb 4, 2010

The Illinois Supreme Court has overturned the state's medical malpractice reform law.

The Illinois Supreme Court has overturned the state's medical malpractice reform law.

The decision has not yet been posted to the Court's site.

The Court's decision reverses a 2005 state law capping non-economic damages -- such as pain and suffering -- for physicians at $500,000 and hospitals at $1 million.

The Court based its decision on a case that arose from Cook County, LeBron v. Gottlieb Memorial Hospital, involving the severe disability of a young girl, Abigaile Lebron.

Cook County Circuit Judge Joan Larsen ruled that caps were unconstitutional in LeBron in 2007.

The American Tort Reform Association (ATRA) reacted to the decision with "considerable disappointment."

"The liability limits put in place in 2005 were perfectly reasonable, and they had begun to stabilize the cost of medical malpractice insurance for health care providers throughout the state," said Tiger Joyce, ATRA president.

"Most unfortunately, for those in need of critical health care services, particularly in underserved rural communities, today's decision invites a return to pre-2005 conditions when many physicians were retiring or otherwise moving their practices to other states to escape the threat of bankrupting litigation."

The Illinois Trial Lawyers Association (ITLA) is expected to hold a press conference at 11 a.m. to discuss the ruling.

Keith Hebeisen, past president of ITLA, will be joined by Beth Spencer, communications director for Illinois AFL-CIO; William McNary, co-director of Citizen Action Illinois; State Rep. John Fritchey (D-Chicago) and Molly Akers, a victim of medical malpractice.

The Illinois State Medical Society is expected to release a statement.

In looking back, it was then-Governor Rod Blagojevich who signed the Illinois Medical Malpractice Act of 2005 into law on Aug. 25, 2005. The bill would have automatically become law the next day had the governor not ceremoniously signed it before a large crowd of doctors, lawyers, politicians, business people and casual observers at Saint Anthony's Hospital in Alton.

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