An Illinois law that caps awards in medical liability cases will come up for review by the state Supreme Court this week.
One year ago, Cook County Circuit Court Judge Diane Larsen ruled in Lebron v. Gottlieb Memorial Hospital that it was unconstitutional to limit or cap non-economic damages. Now the case is headed to the state's highest court.
The state Legislature approved the 2005 law in response to excessive medical malpractice lawsuits. At the time the bill was being considered, a number of physicians testified that they had either left the state or disbanded their practices due to runaway malpractice insurance charges. Physicians and surgeons in certain specialty fields have been difficult to find in many parts of the state. At one time, there were no neurosurgeons south of Springfield.
The liability reform law placed a $500,000 limit on non-economic damages due from physicians and $1 million from hospitals. These non-economic damages are often described as "pain and suffering" awards.
Plaintiffs are not limited in the amount of awards to cover economic damages such as medical expenses or lost wages.
Illinois Supreme Court justices rejected an earlier tort reform attempt as unconstitutional. This law is written differently, and it will be interesting to see whether the high court rejects this one as well or treats it as a new and different effort.