Illinois Courts Overturn Malpractice Law


Last week, the Illinois Supreme Court overturned a five-year-old medical malpractice statute limiting compensation for non-economic damages. The state law capped non-economic damages at $500,000 in claims against doctors and $1 million in cases against hospitals.

The Illinois court found that the 2005 law violated the state Constitution’s separation of powers clause and ruled that judges and juries, not legislators, should be responsible for determining the value of these non-economic damages.

It is uncertain how this ruling will impact the debate over medical malpractice lawsuit reform that is currently being revived in Washington, D.C. Many Republicans are in favor of imposing limits on non-economic damages in medical malpractice cases, and they are working hard to include tort reform measures in a revamped bipartisan version of a health care bill.

Medical field advocates of medical malpractice verdict limitations argue that by capping settlements, it will help reduce malpractice insurance, resulting in more affordable health care for the general public. Opponents of a malpractice cap argue that these limitations will not help reduce the escalating cost of health care in a meaningful way, and they prevent injured victims from receiving the fair compensation that is rightfully deserved in egregious cases of medical malpractice.

Currently, 27 states have passed laws imposing some form of limitations on medical malpractice damage awards. However, the judicial systems in 11 of the 27 states have overturned these laws.

While the current Illinois Supreme Court decision does not end the debate regarding medical malpractice tort reform, it certainly opens the door for injured victims in the state to receive the compensation they rightfully deserve.